Gaining a start-up edge

Securing a competitive edge in today’s fast evolving ICT market calls for a disruptive outlook, fresh thinking, ambition, entrepreneurialism, an innovative edge, energy and  agility  – all key aspects of a start-up mentality.

Here, 9 Partner Managing Director Adam Cathcart discusses how a start-up approach and thinking outside the box will enhance your relevancy and give you a strategic advantage.

Any organisation that wants to make a difference will benefit from having a start-up mentality. Start-ups tend to be super-driven, laser focused and nimble. “The pace of work is fast and the team is often headed up by an inspiring leader who is clear on their mission and purpose,” said Cathcart. “They are unburdened by legacy and operate with a flat structure and zero bureaucracy. How many business leaders can look into their own organisation and recognise this way of working?”

According to Cathcart, the most important aspects of a good start-up are being crystal clear on the strategic purpose and regularly communicating that vision and ethos with teams. “By having a focused and shared goal you can align your approach as a team and achieve better results more quickly,” he said. “Secondly, appreciate the power of culture. A positive company culture can’t be achieved through the odd ‘beer Friday’, perks and staff surveys. Cultivating an authentic culture relies on people, with every individual playing their role.

“By being clear on your purpose, and by giving your teams the freedom to shape a culture which aligns with that purpose, you’ll cultivate something powerful. Thirdly, create an environment that values creative problem solving. Inspire your teams to contribute their all and acknowledge and reward their contribution.”

The biggest challenges in creating and modelling a start-up culture in an established company are legacy thinking and not embracing fresh ideas, believes Cathcart. “The ICT industry doesn’t stand still, nor does user behaviour,” he added. “The profile of buyers will constantly evolve as new generations with different characteristics emerge. Brilliant business leaders will embrace this. They will coach and equip their teams to truly understand today’s market and maximise the opportunity.”

Shoehorning a start-up culture into an organisation will backfire

Key aspects of tomorrow’s buyers will be mobile, thrift and shrewdness – these traits apply to tomorrow’s business leaders too. “It’s vital that ICT providers adapt their sales and marketing approach in line with what customers want,” said Cathcart. “From your perception of your customers’ needs to the solutions you offer, where you choose to present your brand and how you write your messaging, it all needs to resonate otherwise buyers will switch off. Successful next gen’ brands will be fixated by their consumer and won’t be too proud to adapt their approach.”

Against this backdrop, a start-up mentality is vital to long-term success, believes Cathcart, with culture the foundation. “Culture is all about people,” he stated. “It’s an energy that can be felt in every interaction with your team, whether that’s with customers or with one another. Those with a start-up mentality thrive off pace, they are purpose driven problem solvers who value diversity, honest communication and freedom. Cookie cutter culture rarely works. A superficial approach will be ineffective or worse still, counterproductive. You simply can’t fake it. Shoehorning a start-up culture into an organisation will backfire. It needs to be developed and nurtured by real people.

“The born in the cloud generation aren’t weighed down with the legacy of old technology. They present themselves as a holistic supplier of communications solutions, with the customers’ needs taking prominence over the product. Without the historical barriers between IT and telephony, fresh players can present their offering in a way that resonates with today’s market.”
9 Group was first established in 2001 and became part of the Onecom Group this year. It is a large and established organisation, but has recognised the value that resides within the cultivation and maintenance of a start-up mentality. “We are clear on our purpose as an organisation and we communicate openly and clearly with our teams and our partners,” explained Cathcart. “We’re known for our culture, which is tangible within the organisation and throughout our interactions with partners. There’s a real sense of collaboration within our teams, which makes for a fast-paced environment where we’re equipped to make real change every day.”

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