By John Muscarella
VP Channel Sales, Cox Business
At some point, every business, regardless of its industry or market, hits a growth ceiling (a revenue plateau given market conditions and other variables within and outside the control of the business) and has to spend time maintaining what it has rather than scaling. Many business owners find themselves comfortable with what they have, become reluctant to invest or take additional risks for growth, and become complacent.
As an SMB owner, part of breaking through this ceiling is shifting from doing to delegating within your organization. This means hiring a trusted team to take those sales calls and work with customers and building systems and processes that can be replicated as you grow so you can focus on strategic growth rather than being stuck in the day-to-day tactical execution. This is no small feat, and those that get past this hurdle are on a strong path for exponential growth. But even with a solid, process-driven organization, growth can be elusive if you are complacent about mining your existing business.
Are you challenging your salespeople to find new business every day? Are you leveraging key vendors to generate new business? “The key,” says Al Chien, former CEO of Dasher Technologies, a leading IT solutions provider, “is to constantly be looking for new business opportunities and ways to penetrate new accounts. Ask yourself, ‘What can we do for a client that solves a problem differently and more efficiently than our competitors, in a more trusted way, with longevity in mind?’”
Any entrepreneur will tell you that all paths to growth require organizational and entrepreneurial fortitude and an appetite for risk, but the payoff can be handsome. Here are a few routes to continued growth where we see partners finding success.
If you have the resources, whether through private equity/venture capital or personal wealth, acquiring another company is the fastest road to growth. And it has the highest risk. You’re acquiring something, but what is it you’re really buying? Intellectual property/products or people and their relationships? Success is only as good as the new employees and customers you are bringing on and retaining, both of which require additional money to sustain.
Expand Into a New Region
Is your SMB highly regionalized and do you have a great formula for success there? Consider replicating it in new regions. Often the impetus to expand into a new area happens when you have a tent account or two there that makes it a more natural next step. Or maybe you have an application that is specific to a particular vertical’s needs. A vertical solution doesn’t need to be proprietary, but it does need to solve a problem that could be applicable to businesses across the country.
Expand Out to New Technologies
Jed Kenzy, co-founder of Innovative Business Solutions and CableFinder, says, “As entrepreneurs, my business partner and I find problems and then try to find solutions to those problems.” When finding solutions to customer problems, you may discover that adding a new technology to your offering will create new opportunities. This can mean expanding with an existing vendor or bringing in a new vendor. For example, we have many partners shifting their focus from coax to fiber, delivering better performance and a foundation for future technologies for their customers and more upside for them. Once you invest in the training needed to sell and support a new technology, you are better positioned to hire high-performing talent and expand to a broader base of vendors and solutions. It also enables you to organically grow an established and loyal customer base within your existing territory.
Although we’re a large company now, Cox Enterprises was founded when James M. Cox purchased a newspaper in 1898. We grew to what we are today by following the advice above. From newspapers to radio to cable systems and beyond, Cox is passionate about supporting growing businesses that want to expand into new technologies and markets to find success.
John Muscarella – As the Vice President Channel Sales at Cox Business, John is responsible for the overall readiness strategy for the indirect business sales channels. His team has the primary responsibility to develop, implement and sell solutions utilizing the Cox Communications network throughout the country. John has more than 25 years of experience in business management, which includes sales and leadership positions with companies such as Polycom, Sprint and EDS.