The captain at the helm of a sailboat is always on the watch for hazards such as rogue waves or sudden changes in the wind that can slow the boat’s momentum and throw it off course. Similarly, a company on a high-growth trajectory needs to be vigilant of the ever-shifting external forces: competition, the respective investment ecosystem, and the overall economic market. To maintain continuous momentum, leadership must monitor these externalities and make necessary adjustments, while not letting them distract from the core business focus and execution.
Navigate the waters using wind direction.
During Choozle’s seed stage, the advertising technology space was saturated with capital. Many investors had already been burned by the sector. Despite the challenging fundraising environment, we were able to creatively pull together our Series A. In doing so, it felt like we caught one of the last boats off the island. The capital provided the runway necessary to build a world-class team, product, and organization. And all the while, my partner and co-founder, Jeff Finch, and I agreed to operate as if we’d never raise capital again—which isn’t as common in technology as you might think.
Partially due to the receding tide in venture capital investment, the advertising technology industry is currently a rapid state of maturation and consolidation. Weaker and smaller players that never got over the hump have sunk into the choppy seas while the more successful midsize and large companies have been merging at a rapid rate. And although there have been many losers, this is a healthy progression for the overall industry as we now have fewer and more viable companies providing a cleaner slate of options for clients. At Choozle, we closely monitored the shifting tides of the investment community to best serve our core goals while continuing to thrive as an independent player in the space.
The difficulty and duration of the course will be unknown. Plan for resources.
Provision the craft before embarking toward your planned destination, and use those resources judiciously. A constant and reliable supply of capital and talent is needed to float a fledgling enterprise properly. With talent being the most important asset, business leaders must also deliberately re-energize their teams by providing ongoing training, creative exercises such as hackathons, and offsite activities to enable bonding and cultural development. We ascribe to the notion that the employees are always the most valuable asset as it’s the people who drive the profit and product. They keep the wind in the sails and the craft on course. To maintain ongoing momentum, our team is allotted time to reflect, recharge, and celebrate wins both big and small.
Hold steady. Don’t let outside forces throw the boat from its course.
While these external forces can and will impact every aspect of a growing business, they shouldn’t fundamentally change the company or its core focus. The strategy, vision, and values are persistent. To sustain momentum in the face of many changes presented by the externalities, leadership should focus its efforts where they have most control: hiring, training, and retaining the most talented team possible. With the right team, leadership can focus on the core business while continuing to monitor and calibrate to the external factors relevant to successful growth.