Interview with Kelly Masood, President, Intilop, Inc.
Situation: An emerging company is gaining traction as it moves from early adopters to mainstream. They need to continue to develop new technologies, while bringing down the cost of existing products. This is a delicate balancing act for a small company. How do you grow without losing control?
Advice from Kelly Masood:
It’s important to maintain momentum and continuous improvement. From a practical standpoint, we do this by applying common sense to our technical discipline. Common sense, here, is a relative term. It isn’t really taught in school at any level, but is gained through experience. This is the true expertise of the CEO.
The delicate part of the balancing act is the mix between developing new technologies and building an effective business model. An effective business model is built on innovative and cost effective products and sustainable profitability. Since new technologies go through development stages, it is important to create break points where you transition from development to productization to marketing and sales. Continuous improvement in existing products based upon customer feedback and new product ideas for future developments are crucial aspects of a successful business model.
If you want to minimize outside funding and investment you have to watch cash flow and development expenses. Revenue from existing products is the key. When you don’t have resources, you become resourceful. If the team is dedicated to producing innovative and good products that make business sense, they figure out how to accomplish it without cutting corners.
To mature your team over time you must keep them motivated, occupied and adequately compensated today while inspiring them to make it big in the future.
You maintain interest through the pursuit of new technology and the learning associated with it. Engineers like to see their designs work and turned into a product that creates value, is used and is appreciated.
Keeping the team occupied and challenged starts with choosing the right talent in the first place and then getting them to focus on building great products.
Compensating them with a fair salary means locally competitive rates, sweetened with stock options to provide great upside potential.
For us, retaining great employees is about enabling them to innovate products that will find broad market acceptance.
Key Words: Early Adopter, Mainstream, Develop, Cost, Continuous, Improvement, Common Sense, Business Model, Cash Flow, Expense, Price, Retain, Employees, Off-shoring
Situation: Online communities offer the opportunity to leverage crowd sourcing to both solve problems and create new capabilities. How can these communities be leveraged to expand business models?
Advice from Vikas Sharan:
With the simultaneous explosion of digital devices and online communities, the concept of crowd sourcing will only increase. The ability to tap into the crowd sourcing ecosystem will differentiate high performers from everyone else.
If you can think through a problem strategically, and build crowd sourcing capability to scale, you can leapfrog the competition and change the game.
Take the example of ComplianceOnline (CO) from MetricStream.
○ MetricStream started as a company with an enterprise compliance platform. Their vision was to build information and best practices across multiple areas of compliance and vertical industries.
○ Since compliance is a very large area and spans thousands of industries and topics, MetricStream started with building best practices in a couple of compliance topics. To further their vision, they partnered with Regalix to create CO.
○ At CO, MetricStream and Regalix have created an ecosystem of over 20-30,000 experts on different compliance topics. These experts contribute training and best practices on thousands of compliance topics. Without adopting a crowd sourcing model, it would have been very difficult for MetricStream to build expertise across such a diverse range of compliance topics.
Here is the sequence of events that helped to build CO.
CO secured a collaboration with top regulatory officials across a handful of topics. These individuals brought not only credibility, but an initial list of advisers, peers and regulatory contacts to seed the new ecosystem.
From this seed, the ecosystem rapidly grew to a large community which submitted white papers, best practices and training programs.
Using the model first developed with the initial topics, CO has expanded their efforts to thousands of compliance verticals, with 20-30,000 experts contributing information to these verticals.
There are thousands of federal, state and international compliance verticals to which this model can be applied.
Situation: A Silicon Valley company is considering starting a second office both to reduce costs and to diversify its geographic client base. What are best practices for starting your first remote office?
Advice from the CEOs:
Do you really need to have an office, or can your employees be virtual?
Look at your business model and what aspects of your business require an office. Within Silicon Valley, some companies have established local remote offices to enable staff to reduce commutes. These offices include full computer and audio-visual facilities so that remote office staff can participate in home office team meetings. There are an increasing number of cloud-based services that facilitate collaboration between widely distributed teams in different geographic areas. These include Go-to-Meeting, WebEx and Sococo. Can a model like this work for you? If so, then locating an office in a different region is not very different from a remote local office.
Outside of your current client base, what customer companies would you like to target?
Where are they located? Is there a significant geographic concentration of potential customers in other regions? This might tell you where you would want to put either a real or a virtual local office.
Locating an office in a location with numerous potential clients also increases the likelihood that you will find a trained and experienced local talent pool to staff your office.
Make sure that you analyze and understand your business model and what portions are exportable.
What is your culture and how much does it rely on interaction between home office and consultant staff? Avoid a situation where remote staff feel 2nd class.
The solution is to fully understand your model, and to manage both local and remote office staff through the model. Make it simple to monitor people and their activities.