Recently I have been reflecting on the challenges of running a successful small/medium size software and services company in the B2B space. Many of our clients fall into this category – founded by smart enthusiastic leaders who didn’t fit into big companies!
These leaders are keen to prove their worth by creating interesting products and solutions. Sometimes focused on innovative ideas and not a little bit of technical brilliance, sometimes focused on customer intimacy and building world class solutions for customers who really don’t understand how to solve a particular business problem themselves .
Over last few months I have worked with maybe a dozen companies like this in a variety of solution areas  and some things seem to be constant:
  1. Ability to apply a rigid focus to positioning, marketing and selling is nearly always missing – the compulsion to find revenue to sustain the company and the exciting idea is overwhelming and anyone who will listen is consider a “rich target” irrespective on any segmentation and targeting strategy.
  2. Product features and functions seem to be an obsession over merging a software offering with services to provide a solution or “whole product” as defined in Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm epistle which I think of as a software marketeers “bible”.
  3. And finally, asking for, and more importantly taking, advice seems to be ridiculously hard to do for these creative entrepreneurs. No matter how tough the road gets and how challenging staying focused on the agreed strategy becomes CEO’s and Managing Directors still believe they know best and simply won’t ask for help.
My experience has taught me that the knowledge gained by building a small company into a big company and all the mistakes and errors I made along the way are critical insights that small software companies who are doing it for the first time need to hear. But it is almost as if they are afraid to ask and because it highly likely that the entrepreneur is on this journey for the first (and maybe only) time  in their career they don’t know what they don’t know.
If they are on their first venture then IMHO I believe it’s a pre-requisite to find people who have the answers on how to build a successful business in enterprise software. And not only find someone who can offer safe advice on general business issues and challenges but find experts who can help with targeting, solutions, sales process and execution. The companies I have seen who have worked through their targeting and execution offerings in a focused way significantly out perform those that don’t.
And by “outperform” I don’t just mean revenue and profit – I mean quality of life and fun!
If you know where you are going and how you are going to get there you can stop questioning yourself all the time. A lot of small company executives are miserable with their lot , they try one thing and then another..,,, and then another – without planning and advice from experts…. as a result nothing really works well enough which becomes a self fulfilling and depressing situation often resulting in long hours, increased anxiety and questioning their whole strategy!
I say “ get some help” and build a plan for targeting & execution and share it with people who can help you – that way you will sleep better at night, probably become more profitable and never have to worry about going back to work for a big company again!!
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