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Building on a vision

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For the last couple of months I have been working with a group of advisors helping 10 technology companies in the Netherlands with their ambition to scale-up their businesses by expanding internationally.

It has been a privilege to spend time with the entrepreneurs and their management teams de-risking their plans for globalisation. Starting your own business and bringing people onboard to grow with you is a brave thing to do, and it usually involves raising significant amounts of funding on the basis of future success. To be successful you need a good product, driven by a strong workforce working to a set of objectives for sales, marketing and delivery, supported by a robust operation.

Experience tells me you can never be sure which ones are going to be the most successful, but you can make some reasonable predictions based on what you can see in the business right now and what they plan to do.

Moving from the early stages of creating the business and generating interest and momentum, to the next level of maturity and a scalable business model requires a new level of ambition and a story to bring people along. 

For instance, new businesses that started in time to take advantage of favourable conditions for their product that came from the COVID pandemic are going to need to think about how they can continue to be successful post health crisis.

Businesses that have proven they can work well in their home market will have to think how they build on that reference point when they start to invest in overseas growth. The point is what has brought them to here, might not be enough to take them further.

The leadership need to be able to unite behind a story and a picture for the future that binds the company together, and inspires the workforce and investors. 

This is the time when it is crucial to have a vision for the business.

Everyone involved is invested somehow, and therefore motivated because they know where they want to go.The business planning, the forecasting and budgeting all dovetail to the vision, but to give purpose and perspective there needs to be a vision for the future.

My advice to the CEO’s of the companies we have been advising, and to all scale ups, is to find your own way of exciting the team about where you are all going together. It should be realistic and compelling, stretching but doable and worth the hard work. This is more than just projecting the run rate of the business, it’s about creating a story and a goal. The keys are that it is easily articulated and everyone in the business can see the part they need to play to achieve the vision.

The vision not only binds the business together but it also helps attract people, and it helps retain them too. Knowing where you want to take the company enables the leadership to build the structure they need to achieve the goal, and in turn that makes it clear who is needed in which position at which time. That creates career opportunity and a meaningful plan for training and development at a personal and a corporate level.

Why doesn’t it happen naturally ?

There are many things that can get in the way. The day to day of the business is the most likely. Creating visions of the future is all well and good but actually the business may need sales now, or it may need fix some other urgent issue and everything else has to wait. It may also be that the leadership has a vision but they assume other people get it, or maybe they don’t need it, or maybe that someone else is supplying it.

Good quality and regular communication is an important discipline that pays dividends over and over again. It’s rare that team members complain about being told too much or being communicated to too often. Leadership needs to find it’s communication rhythm and routine, it will take some time and resource's but it is also important.

Leaders inspire through example and communication, both things compliment each other. As an organisation grows the latter requires attention to make sure it binds the business together.

If you are a Dutch scaleup looking to expand internationally, get in touch with us at contact@newfound.global.

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