Ivan Markman is the right person to chat with about a company’s growth, and in COR, we are happy to be able to share his experience and wisdom about it. Markman is the current Chief Business Officer in Verizon, but his career path has not been anything but a constant climb: he founded MarketShare, he was a VP in Operations in Yahoo and was a part of the board of directors in Comscore, just to name a few examples. So: What is important when scaling a business?
From accepting a big wage cut to selling a business by $450M
One of Ivan’s successful stories has been his time in MarketShare: he entered as an associate after leaving his position in Yahoo and accepting a 75% wage cut. What makes someone take such a big risk? A good product and a very excited client due to the gained service. Markman thought that they had an excellent product that had to be developed at all costs: “I was very excited by the ways that the technology, information and predictive algorithms could significantly help a business”.
His job consisted in scaling the company, generating a technology product apart from the service and maximizing the offer towards clients and investors. The company increased its size 15 times in 5 years, boosted its value and revenue and then was bought by NewStar. Since then, Markman has not abandoned his passion for business scaling and joined COR, among other companies, as an investor and advisor.
Making a company fly
The difference between an average growth and a fast and astronomical expansion is quite logical, and it involves the culture, the focalization, an excellent product and the size of the business.
An in-depth understanding of the operations and the internal processes is the foundation for expanding a company. It is important to analyze the different areas of work: the impact of the product on the clients, which services are profitable and which areas of the company do not work properly. This analysis and evaluation is key to learn which areas have potential for development and which ones have to be fixed.
It might seem obvious, but the product in itself must work correctly. Perfection is not necessary, but in order for a product to be successful, it must be functional. In this way, clients are satisfied, they can be retained and the product is recommended by their own users.
In turn, the focalization of certain segments must not be disregarded. Being functional to every area and offering every kind of service might be a double-edged sword: “We had a product for advertisers, for editors, we covered verticalization and had a partnership with the Bank of America. It was impossible to do everything right”, said Markman. It is more advisable to take a risk and choose some segments to work on, and once those areas are conquered in a satisfactory way, move on to the expansion of the business.
Inside a company that recently took off and that has less than 20 employees, a structured culture process is not necessary; the daily work is enough to grease the gears. But with an employee increase higher than 100%, international expansion and a continuous development of the product, it is necessary to design a procedural plan. The internal communication, the training of the talent and the creation of a culture is a vital and essential step for scaling a business.
“How each employee interacts with one another and how each member connects with the new talents is important, that is how the business grows”, says Iván. A good culture can be seen in the regard clients have towards the teams they work with and in a high level of production due to the internal understanding they reach with their workmates.
A key point is how to transfer the culture in a growing business, because it is the staff the one who must communicate the company’s mission and essence with their work. At first, the desired characteristics to portray before the market must be chosen through interviews with the new talent. Afterwards, from inside the company, it is necessary to be able to demonstrate the culture’s communication style and work through concrete actions. The way a leader acts will always be more effective than a motivational phrase.
One of the most important pillars when scaling a business is having a solid and deep relationship with the client. Walking in the users’ shoes is required not only to develop a product in the best way, but also to expand the market. Having a high client retention percentage and good feedback is differential when trying to be profitable.
Markman remembers an experience where a company recorded low sales due to an economic crisis:
“We were saved by two things: the vision and the clients. They told us ‘I’m not buying this product right now, but as soon as we can, we will invest in it again and work much more with you’. Investors only had to listen to the clients to remain calm.”
Needless to say, the value of a client’s “lifespan” is important. This is particularly substantial when expanding internationally. Being loyal to a client when opening the company to new markets without having to allocate more resources is an excellent sign to new clients that purchase the product or service. Besides, it can be a gateway to other areas of already known clients and it allows for the validation of the importance and functionality of the essential product.
Understanding and acting
Learning and fixing is the ABC of growth in a company. “If something doesn’t work, it must not be left that way for a long time”, Markman reminds us. There are some ideas one falls in love with, and it is necessary to take a step back and analyze if it is a valuable idea or if it is something that does not enable progress. Some ideas must be thrown away or modified in order to grow, and the same happens with work methods that are not satisfactory. In order to evolve, analyzing strategies to solve a problem is key to making changes where they are needed. Learning circles are a great opportunity to take a problem and transform it into a positive lesson and growth.
“When you work in a start-up and a big opportunity arises, you are competing with yourself as a team, as a business and more. The more you grow, the more you can create and enchant your clients. When you are in a turnaround situation, it is a matter of survival”.
Providing the necessary information in a clear and automatized way in order to make cross-sectional decisions is part of our mission as a company. Thanks to our solution, which works with AI, our goal is to stimulate continuous growth and to increase the value of the products offered by services companies. “The economic value that COR creates when helping a business grow profitably means that it can employ more people, that it can help other companies to be more successful and it also creates a significant economic well-being. Using COR means using technology in a very smart way. I’m a big fan and a believer in what they can do in the future”, ends Markman.