As we complete one year of trading as Keynote Group, I consider us to be incredibly fortunate. Not only have we proved our unique business model works, but we are getting plaudits and recognition for disrupting our industry. With our success however comes a whole new set of challenges – but they are the best kind, growth challenges. No longer is it a question of will this business model work, but figuring out how to scale the business appropriately while managing costs, capacity and meeting both current and future client expectations. I’ve read the textbooks and written papers through my MBA on these topics but it is amazing how much more complex it is when you see it occurring right in front of you, rather than hypothetically.
As a start-up, banks like to be friendly but really have no interest in talking with us until we are no longer a total risk on the lending side. Advisors are expensive and the ones you need are sometimes out of reach financially, plus you have to develop a whole new brand reputation and gain online traction with no history to leverage.
What I realize now is that year one was about survival and proof of concept but year two is about whether our business can be truly scalable. We are a modest five-person company today, with some exceptional delivery partners allowing us to complete twice the volume of work than our internal resources can on their own. The reality is that we have secured enough clients that want to retain our services that we could exist for the foreseeable future without growing or investing in marketing, new locations, additional services or new people. It is a wonderful place to be, but if you aren’t moving forward you will start to fall, slowly at first but with alarming pace if not addressed.
New Halifax Office
With that in mind, as of September 1st we move from being a local Ottawa business, to a multi location company! Taking the success we have seen in Ottawa and scaling that across Eastern Canada is a wonderfully complex and exciting challenge, but one the entire team is relishing. It is however costly. Up until now we have been light on the business development side and focused on local networks and referrals to drive our growth. As we enter new cities we need to create new relationships and compete at the point of buying decision which means a major shift on the sales and marketing side. We constantly face the assumption problem, people outside our network assume they know what we do. They figure we are just another recruitment business. Once we get the chance to sit down with them they get it and understand how we are different. Translating that message to marketing is going to be tough but hoping that the people we are going to engage on that side are ready for a challenge!
Year one we built our business in Ottawa and with the team in place and growing locally, now in year two my focus goes to our new locations. Back to start-up mode of sorts, but now the banks and advisors are a little more obtainable and we have learnt a lot of lessons. Our process is refined, our delivery tighter and our focus is right where it needs to be. If all goes well, next year I plan on sharing how we are progressing from a regional to a national firm with entry to Western Canada. Who knows, maybe in 2020 we will be looking at pushing internationally. Time to define our Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG)!