A tech growth leader shares his startup strategies.
Growth is one of those things that every tech startup focuses on. Yet, many business leaders struggle to realize the level of growth they are seeking. On top of that, technology is constantly changing. There are new opportunities emerging in today’s business landscape. Digital Transformation is disrupting industries. Cloud solutions are rewriting rules of scaling. Concerns around cybersecurity and business process management challenge even the most experienced tech leaders. Things never stand still.
Tech Advancements and Threats
That’s why it is good we have people that love to keep up with the latest advancements and challenges tech leaders face. We had the opportunity to speak with one of those leaders recently. Phil Magnuszewski is the Chief Operating Officer of Infused Innovations, a strategic tech consulting firm that also has a specialization in cybersecurity and an emerging technology and innovation division called Serengeti Labs. Together, these pieces provide a full end-to-end approach to digital transformation for small to midsize organizations. Phil recently shared seven lessons in startup business growth with us that have helped Infused Innovations and Serengeti Labs optimize their growth.
Lesson 1 – Don’t let new tech disrupt the organization
Nowadays, most business leaders are constantly exploring new technologies. However, bringing new technology into an organization has the potential to cause disruptions to the business. Many times, the method of rolling out a new technology and the adoption of new processes can be overlooked and cause unanticipated problems.
Start with a small footprint
“One of the things we see all too frequently, is when a new technology, software application, security policy or cloud solution is rolled out to an organization, issues ensue due to a lack of a change management process being utilized,” says Magnuszewski. “This is particularly true in smaller organizations where there may be a very small tech staff. Today, the ability to affect organizational change with technology has never been more possible. It almost makes it too easy to implement new solutions and that becomes a problem when you don’t lay the foundation that will support that technology. Our engagement process helps avoid these challenges because we are not only looking at the technology, but also the way the organization gets work done,” continues Magnuszewski.
Take the pain out of security
“Policies and configurations that were designed to improve security for example, can sometimes be painful and impact productivity. Our aim is to have minimal end user impact when it comes to security, because we don’t want to hurt people’s ability to do work. We make it as unobtrusive for the user as possible. It’s not just about technology, it is about user experience. Start with a small footprint and utilize a formal feedback loop,” explains Magnuszewski.
Lesson 2 – Hold yourself accountable
When you are talking about the growth of a startup, one of the most important things to ensure is that leaders within the organization are making accountability a priority. When things get tough, and they always do, company leaders are where everyone looks for guidance and support.
Listening to the market
“Our business has changed over the years. The thing that changed the most was getting into cybersecurity. We never intended to have cybersecurity be such a focus. This was a big decision because you can’t just dabble in it,” recalls Magnuszewski. “Once we made the call to create our cybersecurity division, primarily due to demand from our customers, we held ourselves accountable for upholding a very high standard when it came to the security of our own IT environments. We developed holistic processes that we still use today to ensure we are not only doing what is necessary within our organization, but within our customers’ organizations as well,” says Magnuszewski.
It’s not just an IT responsibility
“The cybersecurity breaches that occur almost daily within large organizations, local schools and city governments get a lot of press and headlines. Ongoing regulatory and compliance regulations are becoming increasingly stringent. It’s no longer the IT manager that is responsible, it’s the CEOs and Board of Directors that are also being held accountable when there are security breaches,” warns Magnuszewski.
“It’s about how quickly you can address the issue when it does happen. Automation and orchestration are crucial. The human mind simply cannot keep up. There’s too much input to analyze in real time to avoid or deal with an attack,” explains Magnuszewski.
Lesson 3 – Watch out for blind spots
In business, your business is the priority – not the technology that runs the business. Yet, having the right technology stack is important to our company’s growth. It is easy to overlook aspects of the business that aren’t directly related to your core competencies. What you do when you find a hole in your business strategy is just as important as how quickly you react.
“Ultimately, it comes down to fully understanding what you are trying to accomplish and what you are trying to protect against. It requires a plan, strategy and roadmap,” shares Magnuszewski. “However, you can’t get too married to your plan. It can cause blind spots. Growth is something that happens over time. You need to be open to change and when you do find a blind spot – fixing it quickly. You are going to need to make some major changes along the way, and you will never be done,” says Magnuszewski.
Lesson 4 – Don’t hire off the resume
One of the biggest challenges many technology companies face today is recruiting talent. With unemployment rates being at all time historical lows, there’s not enough talent to go around – particularly in technology fields. However, it’s not just technical skills that are required.
“The biggest challenge is finding people with the right backgrounds and experience. Finding people who are great technically and great communicators is the key,” says Magnuszewski. “More than half of IT consulting is communication. Today, technology professionals need to marry strong communication skills with extensive technical knowledge and know-how. You can’t hire off a resume, you need to network and get to know people to see how they work with others,” explains Magnuszewski.
Lesson 5 – You can never lose if you always take something away from the experience
Life has its share of disappointments and things that don’t go the way you plan, but it doesn’t mean you can’t still come out a winner. It’s all about how you look at setbacks and challenges. The secret is never losing – even when you lose.
Taking the good from the bad
“Just like everyone else, things haven’t always worked out the way I planned earlier in my career. However, I do believe that things happen for a reason. I wouldn’t be where I am today if things didn’t happen the way they did,” shares Magnuszewski. “I use everything as a learning experience. You can use what you learned to drive you forward. You never really lose if you are always taking something away from the experiences,” encourages Magnuszewski.
Lesson 6 – Get away when facing a tough decision
Business, especially when you are a startup, is full of tough decisions. What opportunities do you follow, and which do you take a pass on? Which partnerships are going to best support the growth of the business? When is the best time to launch that new product or service? The list goes on. Most of the time you can change the decisions you make, but other times the decisions are make-it or break-it choices.
“When I face tough decisions, I take some time off to get away from the decision and the business and try not to think about it. Sometimes getting away from the situation is to most helpful thing you can do,” says Magnuszewski. “When you come back, you typically have a fresh perspective. Plus, getting away allows you to get back to your roots and rediscover what is really important to you. This makes the tough choices a little easier. Oftentimes, the path forward becomes very clear when you have time to quietly reflect,” notes Magnuszewski.
Lesson 7 – Just because you can grow, doesn’t mean you should grow
Growing at all costs is the mantra of many startups. Bigger is better. If you are not growing, you are dying. This may not always be the best approach, so consider an alternative approach.
Sticking to the game plan
“I’m most proud of what we have done to stay true to our core philosophy. We haven’t grown as fast as we could because we want to make sure we are not taking on more business than we can handle so the client experience doesn’t suffer,” shares Magnuszewski. “We have found some really great people. And when you set them free to spend time with customers, that is one of the proudest things for me. Especially when we see the industry generally heading in the other direction. I love having everyone in the organization on the same page. That’s where the magic happens,” concludes Magnuszewski.
Let’s review the lessons Phil shared with us:
- Don’t let new tech disrupt the organization
- Hold yourself accountable
- Watch out for blind spots
- Don’t hire off the resume
- You can never lose if you always take something away from the experience
- Get away when facing a tough decision
- Just because you can grow, doesn’t mean you should grow
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