What have been your challenges to scaling?
dotDigital is a 400-person company and we’ve needed to break through the ceiling at several stages during the growth.
We’re continually expanding with more offices internationally, first New York, then LA, Sydney, Melbourne, Singapore and now Amsterdam. The international challenge is structural. Locally getting the balance between being part of the larger enterprise whilst having freedom to act like a small entrepreneurial business to crack the local territory.
That means taking all the benefits at the core of dotDigital and working within a framework. The UK teams need to understand the regions when and why they don’t fit 100% into dotDigital processes.
For example, in the UK it makes sense to have an internal trainer, external trainer, sales trainer. Whereas in local regions you get one person to do it all whilst the operation is scaling.
Scaling is all about finding the right people.
When you’ve got the right people with the right skills, then delegate to them, giving them ownership and control.
I’ve always joked I want to find someone who can delegate my tasks on my behalf!
With the right people and structure then its down to making sure the right KPIs are in place.
What would you do differently now you know?
At dotDigital we didn’t raise money. We did convert to a public company. That came with a whole load of different challenges.
Looking back, perhaps I would do the timing differently. I’m working with and helping several entrepreneurial companies and I give them the same advice:
Hold out for as long as you can before raising capital.
There seems to be an idea in smaller entrepreneurial businesses of “we’ve got to go and raise money, we’ve got to do this, we’ve got to do that”.
I’m an investor too – one of the nice ones – but the reality is if you haven’t shown you’ve got a viral product, if you haven’t shown you’ve got partnerships, if you haven’t shown you’re making any dollar, then you’ll have to give a big share of the company.
Any investor is going to need a big share because of the high risk, you’ll end up giving up much more of the company than necessary.
Just put your nose to the grindstone and make some dollar. Show some progress!
Do that and you’ll raise a ton more money and face much less dilution.
If you get money too early and growth doesn’t go smoothly, forcing the need for more money, more dilution, then as the founding entrepreneur you become marginalised quite quickly.
Don’t raise money until you have a solid plan. Why you need it and what you’re going to do with it. Have demonstrable proof that if you do X you’ll get Y return.
What are your next challenges to continue scaling?
Onboarding new people and continuous training in the post COVID world.
Firstly, finding the right person. There is almost too much choice, whereas before it was selecting 1 from 100 it might be 1 from 10,000 now.
And figuring out integrating home working. The world has changed, many people are never going back to office-based work. The likes of Facebook, Twitter, Shopify have all said they’re never going back.
Previously you could hire a new salesperson. That person would sit with the rest of the group. They are learning and picking up on things as they listen to the rest of the group talking to prospects. How do you do that with home-based working?
Just like management by osmosis and water cooler conversations the unstructured training that happens in an office doesn’t exist in the home environment. We must find new ways of getting the same benefits.
And as the business is scaling giving people the opportunity to grow and develop. Like, how do you elevate someone into a managerial role for the first time when people are largely at home? How are you going to do it? It’s going to be interesting.
Another challenge is marketing. Millions were spent on flights and events to help drive leads. With no or fewer physical events how are you going to do it?
Everyone is doing webinars. But how can we differentiate? How can you make your digital events stand out?
We had great partner session with a company called Something Digital. A wine and cheese night. They sent everyone the same wine and cheese, we got to taste it, someone walked us through it.
That made me want to attend, because they physically delivered something. It was a bit of fun and we had the business chat after the tasting. So much better than a typical webinar with a message being rammed.