Your Customers will Save You
This is the third article in a series on creating consistent growth over a long period of time.
At BP3 we’ve had a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 50% over our first 9 years, including a 50% growth rate in 2015. We’ve doubled in any two year period you can pick on the calendar over the life of the company, including 2007–2009, and 2008–2010.
In this series we’re attempting to address the question: How do you sustain this kind of year-in, year-out growth despite the ups and downs of the economy, ecosystems, and technologies?
We’ll attempt to address the keys to sustainable growth through our eyes over the last 9 years, by sharing the principles that helped us throughout, shared over the next 8 posts. Last time we discussed principle #2: Measure your Thinking Against other Models. In this third post, I want to focus on a key tenet of growth: focusing relentlessly on your customers.
Customers as Culture
We have always focused on taking care of customers first. It is our belief, backed by experience, that making customers a key part of your culture is critical to consistent growth over the long-term.
That philosophy is ingrained in our culture and approach. It was reinforced by the recession of 2008–2010. Our revenue more than doubled from 2008 to 2010, but the path was incredibly uneven. After a great first half of 2008, the second half was a real set back.
I recall arriving at an OMG conference on BPM only to see the news that Lehman Brothers was folding. We had conference calls scheduled with customers at financial institutions that were canceled that week as everyone in Finance was in a scramble to keep their business afloat, and to keep their jobs. Investment in process was sidelined. Our business was in real jeopardy.
But during that critical time between Fall of 2008 and Spring of 2009 we were fortunate. Two customers really brought us through that downturn, because we had done great work for them before. Because we were completely focused on their success. Because they liked us, personally. Because we liked them in return. They could have taken advantage of the situation, but they didn’t. They could have postponed or canceled projects, but they didn’t.
That early experience as a company left its imprint upon us. We never forgot to be thankful and grateful for our customers, who quite literally put food on our tables.
Bringing that Culture to All Parts of your Company
When we started our BP Labs team, we initially staffed development and support within team. We did this purposely: to build a culture of customer centricity in our development team as it grew, and to have everyone pitching in to help our customers. The leader of our BP Labs team had been both a consultant and an engineering manager and understood both perspectives.
Your first hire into any kind of customer support role is also critical. Our first hire into the team is a passionate advocate for our customers and “doing the right thing.” This person set the tone for everyone else we hired.
Celebrate Customer Wins
It’s important to celebrate the wins — it is too easy to move on too quickly. We need to take a moment to really savor the win. Celebrating gives the mind and spirit a chance to reset and renew. It prepares you for the next hard push.
In particular, it is too easy in customer support and professional services to just start the next day, ticket, work item, or project. But success deserves a moment of reflection and satisfaction for a job well-done. And it is important to share that with customers — to let them know how proud you are of the work you’ve done together, and how important it is to you that they are achieving their goals.
Many companies celebrate when they close a deal with a customer. We celebrate when that customer goes into production thanks to our hard work — and we celebrate every time they go into production after that. You have to celebrate these wins if you want your company to thrive — because it rewards and acknowledges the grinding work required to create real value.
Celebrate your Services Team
I can’t tell you how many organizations fail to recognize the achievements of the people on the front lines of their organization. Customer Service, Support, or Professional Services. They’ll celebrate sales wins, marketing wins, and product wins. But culturally many companies don’t know how to celebrate wins in services and customer support. Services and support teams are too tired and busy to plan their celebrations. It is your job as CEO, founder, manager or leader to make sure they get the airspace to celebrate a win.
Imagine Apple celebrating product, design, and marketing… and forgetting to celebrate their retail employees; we all know that they don’t make this mistake.
When you’re sending out your “thankyou” emails to the company — you had better be thanking those that got you here. When you have a celebratory happy hour, think about doing it on a day when your traveling consultants and sales team are in town. Think about the remote locations as well.
Celebrate the services team. Celebrate with your customers.