These were the words of Thomas A. Edison, the leading innovator of his time, a hundred years ago. The same non-compromising attitude is needed today.
The number of young businesses capable of rapid, even extremely rapid growth, has increased in Finland. These companies are able to rival their international competitors in Silicon Valley pitches or technology conferences.
Why is it then, that sometimes a long-developed product fails to sell? It is best to ask the customer directly – the sooner the better – and preferably before large amounts of your own money or that of others have been spent on product development.
In dance, rapid turns are called pivots. In the world of growth companies, pivoting refers to changing the direction of your operations, a sudden turn in a business model or product when you realise that your former approach is just not working.
The world is full of customers who are willing to pay what you ask, as long as the product and offering are right. But how ready are we to change our ways of thinking, take new risks and find such customers?
A successful product or service must exceed the customer's expectations. It is not enough that customers are satisfied. They must also be excited about getting something they did not even know they wanted when purchasing the product or service. As customers, we do not demand the best in the world, but the right package of something that will assist our work and solve our problems.
Selected as the best growth company in the Pirkanmaa region, Framery is a prime example of a company that has exceeded the customer's expectations on the international market. Rather than being just another soundproof space, an office phone booth designed by the company is a successful export product due to its design and carefully considered details.
When you need to change direction, a discussion with another entrepreneur, private equity investor, or even an official (!) can be even more important than money.
A wide range of advice and advisers are available for growth companies. Such advice is worth listening to, even if you do not follow all of it. Listening and learning from others are the essential characteristics of an entrepreneur. Startup entrepreneurs have described discussions with private equity investors as free, world-class consultancies, even if the investor decides not to invest in the company.
The heart of a growth company is the right kind of Board of Directors, willing and able to interact and capable of keeping a close eye on market developments. Alongside the Board and owners, an external advisor can play a special role as part of the company's team.
At best, an advisor can contribute experience and insider knowledge of market areas, and can open doors to networks that would otherwise be inaccessible. Companies should seek partners locally for operational activities and – in the form of contacts – as sources of expertise in various market areas. In addition, remember to keep the Board, coaches and advisers posted on what is going on as the company's situation evolves.
Plenty of homework is needed prior to going global and as much work as possible should be done in advance. It is not the end of the world if not everything goes as planned. Failure is OK, particularly if you put things right quickly.
Executive Director, Startup Companies
Tekes – the Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation