It takes a lot to get people out of bed early to traipse into the city on a rainy day. But hearing from Tim Norton is a good a reason as any. If you are not familiar with the name, you are more than likely aufait with the story - the kiwi born company 90 Seconds, now a global high growth business taking an 11 million dollar Series A care of Sequoia India. The last year has been huge for 90 Seconds, involving big growth and even bigger goals, and at the helm of that story every step of the way was 90 Seconds Founder and leader Tim.
If you ever get a chance for one on one time with Tim it more often than not starts with a hug, and ends with a mind numbing download of information before he has to run off somewhere. I often wondered where he was off to in such a hurry, it turns out everywhere - with a Series A raise that included global investors from 7 countries. When you quiz him for advice or a "what are you up to?", as I am prone to do - the response is often gloriously simple. "Growing the business mate". Simple. Simple?
5 insights Tim Norton shared on 'The Journey to Series A"
Clean up your systems and processes
Those who expected Tim to deliver some sort of super-growth-trick were probably disappointed. Instead, Tim repeatedly pointed out the importance for businesses to build robust well thought out systems from day 0. If you do have a great product and an audience who wants it - you will grow. Growth may bring more revenue, more team members and more reach, but it will also grow every problem your business has. Without proper systems in place you will spend crucial time fixing mistakes, taking your focus away from leading and driving your business.
Don’t get distracted
Press? Great, not essential. Launching nice to haves? Great, not essential. Making sure your customers are happy? You need that. Tim wants you to know the core of your business and own that, make it hum, make sure the team knows what they are doing, make sure you have the talent needed internally to crank that core part of your operations - and then (and only then) shift focus onto those nice to haves.
Know where you are going and know how to get there
At the end of the day delegation will only get you so far. Tim is not saying micro manage to all hell, but if things aren't going well it is maybe not your product manager's fault - it is probably yours. Are you supporting your team enough? Do you actually know what is happening in the business day to day, and know how that is tracking to the key measurement points. Are you assessing where systems are breaking under stress, and making changes needed to make it happen. At the end of the day, the buck stops with you.
Don’t be casual about the important stuff
“Who knows what a series A is?” Tim asks the audience gathered to hear about the journey 90 Seconds had taken to series A. A surprising lack of hands shoot up, 3 to be exact. Tim nods and echoes “good, good to see”. The amount of times that Tim (and we) have heard that a company, startup or pre-startup is rallying for Series A is huge, but now we were wondering if people even knows what that means. Tim points out that business is a serious thing, and in the process of ramping up his company to get the investment he needed he was walking a fine line a number of time. Pushing his livelihood, his team's security and his bank balance to the limit every step of the way - “this is not a process to take lightly”. By being casual about the important stuff like investment, scale and growth - we run the risk as a community of not learning from each other, or indeed setting each other up for failure. Tim points out that when we talk about something like the road to Series A it should by no accounts be doom and gloom, but honesty and seriousness will help others know when the time is right to even start this conversation.
Getting the raise meant building the company they needed after the raise
There are two parts to unpacking this. Part one is that unless you have your systems ready to go, a clear plan of attack, a motivated team, a product that works an audience that wants it - any amount of cash injected into the business will be misused/wasted/burnt up. Unprepared businesses can burn through cash and make it harder to get investment later on in their journey. The second part is that, your investors are wanting to invest in a certain kind of business. Once you have initial capital, you have customers, good business practices and a clear entry point into new markets - your investors are going to say “what's next?”. They will want a clear indication your business is growing and will continue to grow or that it is ready to step up to the next level. This may in-fact mean you are stepping up to that level before the investment comes in, or growing before the money is in the bank.
Tim is driven, perhaps obsessive about 90 Seconds, and the vision he sees for his company, his team and himself. A sort of clarity of vision and absolute commitment which runs through the messages of so many people that come to speak at GridAKL.
Tim's path for business growth might not be for you, or might even seem unattainable - but perhaps the biggest insight is the one he didn't spell out but is just evident from being around him. Clarify your vision, know what you want and commit to attaining it. Own that commitment, and bring people into your vision that share it. Simple.
Anya is the Brand Manager for GridAKL, you can follow her on twitter here