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How ‘builders’ pave the way for growth

From an outsider’s perspective, the tech industry is undergoing a gold rush. When the public sees software companies going public at all-time high valuations, investors and employees becoming wealthy, growth can look easy. Let’s dispel that myth: it’s not. 

In fact, building software is really difficult. The failure rate is extraordinary. And, although many factors separate hypergrowth companies from larger, more established ones, the need to be flexible is the most noteworthy. There’s ambiguity everywhere you turn within a start-up organization—there may not be a perfect data set or a model to follow. In order to grow, teams need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. 

Growth comes from builders, not sustainers

Growth starts with the talent assembled to do the job. Seismic spends a lot of time on talent acquisition and retention, because our main business input is our people—and our product is only as effective as the people who build it. So it’s massively important to hire the right people for today, as well as the future. 

Most people’s experience and comfort levels fit into one of two camps: builders and sustainers, and there’s a huge difference between the two personas. Even though sustainers may have strong credentials, a proven track record of success, and subject matter expertise, that doesn’t necessarily translate to growth. Hypergrowth organizations face unique wrinkles—from creating new processes to operating in uncertainty—that more established companies may have ironed out over time. Some employees prefer to operate within defined processes, but builders tend to be generalists who thrive in ambiguity and seek solutions to the cracks in the enterprise. A builder’s mindset pushes hypergrowth organizations to the next level, because these team members have the ability to find what needs to be done, assume a higher level of risk, and execute creative solutions. 

A crisis is a terrible thing to waste

There’s a lesson to learn in every crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on businesses around the world is serving as an opportunity for growth. When faced with a crisis, the first thing to ask is: What can we learn from this?

Over the course of the past year, our leadership team has learned a lot. Without in-person meetings, for example, we learned that our historical levels of business travel were not the most efficient way to do business. The relationships that were once built over steak dinners are now built through digital engagement. As a result, a seller’s digital touchpoints have shifted from a nice-to-have to a lifeline. Fail at this and you fail overall – virtual experiences need to be on point.  

The Seismic platform has empowered us to capitalize on virtual sales. Our go-to-market teams are positioned to deliver engaging, personalized content experiences that have led to continued growth, even under these new digital-first conditions. 

You never know where the next great idea will come from

In a finely tuned growth machine, optimizing velocity is paramount, any little drag is an opportunity for the competition. Entering what is likely the last ⅓ of the global pandemic, many larger companies have embraced indefinite work-from-home policies. This could, over time, prove to be effective, but it could also prove to be an organizational friction point.  

Being present in the office benefits everyone from entry-level positions to executive leadership. Younger employees get to soak in information from senior members of their team. Leadership builds stronger relationships with their teams through in-person interactions. But more than anything, teams build trust—and trust is important when giving builders the latitude to take risks that can ultimately lead to growth. 

Growth doesn’t come easily. Companies that pursue growth need a risk tolerance that allows them to embrace new opportunities for growth. That means trust must be built throughout the organization so that teams are comfortable with taking risks. It’s also important to understand that not every risk will translate into success, but teams can learn and continue to grow from failures. 

If you’d like to learn more about growth, check out my panel discussion with Microsoft Board of Directors Chair and Seismic Board of Directors Member John W. Thompson and Microsoft Executive Vice President & President of Global Sales, Marketing & Operations Jean-Philippe Courtois.

John McCauley
John McCauley
CFO
John is the CFO at Seismic, leading the company’s global financial operations, accounting, and tax functions. John brings more than a decade of experience in leading financial teams at fast growing international firms including Illumina and ServiceNow, where he was part of the team that led the company’s successful IPO in 2012.

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