Updated: Feb 16
By Jackie Luo, TCV Growth Partner
“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.” James Clear, Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones
A lot of new businesses, after growing quickly for a few years, find themselves stagnating. They have succeeded in developing a new product serving a new customer segment. The owners of the business have worked long hours, hired a few full time employees, and managed to quickly grow their sales to $1M. However, after that, they couldn’t seem to scale to the next revenue threshold, like $5M, despite that the owners and employees continue to work long hours and very hard. Why? The answer is in the habits and systems built into the business and the habits people develop.
I teach sales and marketing in the SCALEUP Maryland program, which TCV Growth Partners is a proud sponsor. Most participants are facing this challenge. In my seminar on sales and marketing, I focus a lot on building a winning sales process, which is a reflection of the habits of the CEO, the sales people, and the team. To win, you need not only to set the high revenue goals, but also practice the daily habits of winning. In his book “Atomic Habits”, James Clear explains why habits determine the results, based on scientific facts and how our mind works. He also provides practical guide for building good habits. I recommended his book to all participants to the SCALEUP Maryland program.
Changing habits takes time, but we can start small and, gradually, we will build great habits and processes in the business. There are a few habits new businesses should focus early on. These habits have big impact on their growth trajectory.
Have a quick meeting once a week, or twice a week on objectives and goals. At this stage, the business is still small, with less than 10 employees. Everyone, from the founder to the new hire, can also be very busy, with everyone wearing multiple hats. It’s important that everyone is marching on the same beat. Taking the time and building the habit of an effective planning meeting on a daily basis will focus everyone on the right things. The meeting doesn’t have to be long. Half an hour should be sufficient. But everyone needs to be engaged in these meetings.
Have sales team make a certain number of phone calls, emails, or face to face meetings every week. When the business is still small, most time the business owner is the only salesperson. However, the owners are pulled into multiple directions every day, in customer support, product development, or even IT fixes. Then, the sales prospecting activity is deprioritized, and it’s no surprise that the revenue is stagnating. If the owner is the sales person, the owners must establish the discipline to devote certain number of hours to sales activities.
Have a habit of continuous customer discovery. Achieving initial traction in the market is only the beginning. It has validated your initial set of hypotheses for how your product and services solve a certain problem. The market is dynamic, and businesses must continuously deliver value to customers, current and future. This can only be achieved by developing a habit of continuous customer discovery. To do so, the business owner can establish a list of running hypotheses on customer pain points, build a list of potential buying ecosystem, including users, decision makers, influencers, and talk to them regularly. The business owner should also establish a monthly routine to talk to existing customers, identifying gaps in the current product and services, and discovering new pain points.
These 3 habits are not hard things to do, but building the habits of doing these things is hard. If you want to win, you must be willing to do the hard things. If you are a business seeking to scale, I would like to challenge you to build these 3 habits in the next 60 days, starting today.
“All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision. But as that decision is repeated, a habit sprouts and grows stronger. Roots entrench themselves and branches grow. The task of breaking a bad habit is like uprooting a powerful oak within us. And the task of building a good habit is like cultivating a delicate flower one day at a time.” – James Clear, author of “Atomic Habits”