In the tech industry, we are often too fixated on speed. Startups race to be first to market, while established companies try to outpace each other in product development, sales, and growth. But I’ve found that slowing down – in order to go fast later on – has been the real secret to my company’s success.
When I started Deacom in my basement nearly 25 years ago, I had a long-term vision for the company I wanted to create. We had a good product that our customers depended on and saw value in. I wasn’t interested in taking on outside capital so I could rapidly grow the company, sell it in a few years and move onto something else. My priority was continuing to improve and expand our software, making it even more indispensable to the businesses that use it. I felt external investors wouldn’t be aligned with our goals, so I chose to take a path of slow, steady and deliberate growth.
I never felt like we were stagnated by this decision. On the contrary, having limited resources made our company more creative and helped us establish a strong foundation that has served us well. Here’s what I’ve learned from transforming that basement business into a multimillion-dollar company.
Improve Your Base Product
From the beginning, we focused on building our product and our business through incremental advances. Our company adopted Kaizen – the management philosophy based on making small positive changes for continuous improvement – as a core part of our culture.
We decided early on that we wouldn’t customize our software, despite ongoing customer requests. Our competitors were selling customized products for a steep fee. If a customer came to them and said, “We love your software, but it doesn’t do these five things,” other companies would create a special version of the product to suit their exact needs. We didn’t have the budget or the desire to hire a huge team to meet these demands. Customization offered short-term financial benefits, but it wouldn’t add to the base of our software package.
So when you are in a similar situation, take a step back and try to understand the essential elements the customer is asking for. What tasks do they need to accomplish? What are their goals? And is there a way to build the technology to be flexible enough to handle their needs without compromising your own priorities? For us, the answer to the last question was always yes – which enabled us to help our customers while strengthening our own product.
Years later, our competitors are slowing down and realizing the drawbacks of managing many different software packages. Because all of our customers are running the same versatile software, we have a solid foundation that can now support rapid growth. We’re opening our first international office in 2020, and we aim to double our company’s revenue in the next three years – which is only possible because of our slow trajectory.
Put The Right People In Place
It takes time to develop your company culture and bring people on board who will help it thrive. Like the rest of our business, we grew our team gradually and intentionally. We defined our core values, led by honesty and transparency, and recruited smart, detail-oriented, team-driven team members.
Make sure that every person you hire believes in what you do and how you do it. Over time, adding more people to your team and communicating your values will become faster and easier. It won’t be just one person talking about your culture; it will be three employees, then 10, then 30 and so on. All of your employees will embody these principles and be ready to pass them on to new hires.
Practice Your Values Daily
There are times when the short-term fix is faster than the long-term solution. It’s tempting to take the easy way out in these situations, which is why we bring every day-to-day decision back to our company’s values. Will this action solve a problem the right way for the long haul? Will it treat the customer with openness and honesty?
Every day, customers will contact you with problems they want fixed immediately. And you’ll often have to decide between resolving an issue quickly and resolving it correctly. You could give them what they want in the moment, for example, copying and pasting a piece of code in a slapdash repair. Or you could explain to them that the real solution will take a week to complete, but that it will make future adjustments faster and simpler.
I’ve never had a customer respond to this kind of transparency with anything but acceptance. Customers also want a lasting solution, but they need to understand why it will take a week and not a day.
In the past 25 years, our long-term goals haven’t changed a lot. We still want to build an excellent product and expand our company systematically. Embrace slow growth now so you can accelerate much more quickly in the future.