What I’ve Learned From 25 Years in the Tech Industry

8/25/14Follow @metricstream

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always be on your toes, anticipating consumer demands and industry shifts, and addressing them before anyone else does.

Keep your finger on the pulse of the market. Monitor social media conversations. Implement Google Alerts to track industry news and trends. Evaluate how these trends matter to your business, and how you can address them in line with your core vision and mission.

Metrics are another key element to staying agile. Consistently measure the progress of your activities. Figure out what’s working and what’s not, and make changes proactively.

Keep the Customer Front and Center

Buffer, a startup that provides a social media management application, is well-known for its “Happiness Heroes”—customer service agents who proactively respond to all support requests, suggestions, and ideas. In June alone, the team delivered over 9,000 responses to e-mails, answering 81.4 percent in under an hour, and 13.2 percent in 1-6 hours. The team also delivered 6,000+ responses on Twitter, answering 61.6 percent in less than 15 minutes, and 18.9 percent in less than an hour. Buffer even publishes a “Happiness Report”—a monthly roundup of how happy its customers are.

Many startups tend to focus all their time and effort on building a great product or service with the coolest features or the slickest interface. But the ones that succeed are those that focus on their customers. Creating a positive customer experience enables you to differentiate yourself from the competition, generate more buzz around your products and services, and drive greater profits.

It’s about actively engaging customers. Today’s age of social media has given rise to a more empowered consumer. So instead of going out to find prospects, you have to enable prospects to find you. Be present where they are. Engage them continuously to find out what they want, and how they want it. Find solutions that resonate with customer needs. Ultimately, happy and loyal customers can be your best brand advocates.

Hire and Retain the Right Talent

A great product, a growing market, and a well-thought out business strategy aren’t enough if you don’t have the right talent. Implement good hiring processes. Evaluate if your organization’s culture and values align with those of a potential employee. Simulate work situations and challenges to get a sense of the candidate’s work abilities and their fit in your company.

But remember that the hiring process is only half the job. The other half is about cultivating a workplace culture that people will want to be part of. Cloudability, a cloud cost analytics startup, offers employees and their families 100 percent paid healthcare, generous stock options, and no formal vacation policy. Hyland Software encourages a “one-team” mentality, flexibility with compressed work weeks, and fully paid sabbaticals. Crowdtap, which produces a social influence marketing platform, believes in eliminating micromanagement, fostering a safe and comfortable environment where every concern can be voiced and resolved immediately, and maintaining an open, collaborative office space that empowers everyone to innovate.

It’s no wonder that these companies rank among the best places to work. When you have a great workplace culture that values its employees, it becomes much easier to attract and retain top quality talent.

Conclusion

Developing and managing a tech business can be challenging even for the best of people. But it can also be the adventure of a lifetime. The key is to keep an open mind, learn from your successes and failures, and move forward.

Shellye Archambeau is CEO of MetricStream, a Palo Alto, CA-based company offering governance, risk, compliance, and quality management solutions to enterprises in the pharmaceutical, medical device, high tech manufacturing, energy, financial services, healthcare, manufacturing, food and beverage, and automotive industries. Follow @metricstream

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