Scaling for Success: B2B Software Roundtable

Our recent B2B Software Roundtable saw some of the leading executives in London come together to discuss key questions around one crucial topic: scaling for success. The discussion was chaired by Adam Hale, Chair, DevOpsGroup and former CEO, Fairsail (now Sage People). Below we have highlighted the major themes of the conversation.

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The first factor discussed was purpose. Identified early on as a key asset for software companies, it helps condense their aims and qualify their practices. One key area where this has a real impact on growth is hiring. In a fragmented and competitive market – where skills are highly transferable and careers are indefinite – a true purpose helps identify their place in the market, plot their route to success, and is therefore an indispensable consideration for a company looking to attract the right talent.

 

Defining purpose is especially relevant for early-stage players; startups can ill-afford to misdirect their time, energy or assets while preparing for growth, especially when competing with global market giants. Attendees agreed that such enterprise powerhouses with decades of experience and seemingly infinite resources must be taken on at their weakest points, and that having a clearly articulated and well-understood purpose advantages smaller companies, enabling them to exploit existing weaknesses in the market.

 

Specifically, purpose can directly guide market-entry strategy, influencing decisions around which particular verticals of B2B software they choose to disrupt. This might determine whether they prioritise mid-market or SMB customers rather than more lucrative enterprise targets. It can also reinforce a company’s approach to value-based selling, ensuring that a customer’s experience with a new software solution is transformative, addresses their pain points and increases the likelihood of long-term adoption, even when decision cycles are being ever-shortened.

 

The group agreed that if a software company has clarity over its purpose, and has leveraged it to identify and target the right customers (attempting to solve the right problems), inorganic attrition should be largely non-existent. This can be supported by one key advantage of selling on a SaaS-based model: the visibility it affords over customer usage. 

 

Metrics and KPIs were an important topic of conversation, with the consensus being that the right balance can be the key to unlocking successful scaling. If KPIs have the potential to act as waymarkers then it can often be difficult for early-stage software startups to cut through the noise and decide which pathways to follow. Similar to carving out one true purpose, the panel suggested that concentrating on one key metriccan help prevent dilution while drawing the team together as it becomes easier to demonstrate how the individual’s performance is intrinsically linked with the collective. This topic brought the group back onto hiring and culture. Undeniably a hot topic for scaling startups and late-stage corporates alike, conversation centred around ways to motivate and incentivise; giving employees ownership and enabling them to believe in their own impact upon the business. Suggestions also included providing greater transparency within organisations, and using all-hands meetings as platforms for employees to recognise and appreciate each other’s contributions.

 

Attendees also touched upon the challenge of diversity in software businesses, and in tech more broadly, but this problem is clearly top of mind for a lot of execs in the space right now. The difficult truth appears to be that many employers struggle with a homogeneous talent pool; however, Boards and executive teams must make it their responsibility to implement the necessary changes needed to encourage diversity, driven from the top down.

 

A massive thank you to everyone who came and contributed to an engaging and enlightening discussion. Look out for more B2B events in 2019!

BlipparIo-Tahoe (Centrica)F5 NetworksFacebookITO WorldLiberisLivingbridgeNotion CapitalOctopus VenturesOktaRealeyesSymantecVentiga Capital Partners

InsightCatherine Adams