How To Make a Successful Company in the 21st Century

What will in the future distinguish highly successful companies from the rest?

In the globally interconnected world where brand identity and image is everything there are far more challenges and unknowns than if you run your local shop with a stable set of customers from the neighborhood. But also opportunities to attract and retain new customers, get a reach not possible before and build business fast and to scale. More dynamics, more fun! Even if you do not have a fancy “high tech” product.

As an entrepreneur with ambitions of course you have to have an offering which solves the relevant problems for the customers (yes, you need real customers all from the start!), a winning value proposition, a delightful packaging no one can resist and ease of use. These are the prerequisites but this is just the beginning. The continuation, and eventually the “make or break” for your business, is all about execution.

Once you have established yourself in the marketplace, are serving customers in a successful way and started to gain new customers the company inevitably needs to grow. A bigger company means more people, all with their brainpower, views and ambitions. At this stage many things can go wrong (every recruitment is critical) so you have to articulate as early as possible what are the values and purpose of your company. The world out there is complex and changing all the time so organize in a way to empower people and get the best use of their minds and creativity. There are interesting concepts on self-organizing teams (e.g. Laloux 2014: “Reinventing Organizations”, Robertson 2015: “Holacracy”) which can give inspiration. When appointing managers think of fit with company culture, servant leadership and cooperative skills.

Entrepreneurship is often put up against structure and processes and excessive bureaucracy is not helping anyone. However, some law and order is a necessity. If you have a product in an area heavily regulated by laws and government policies you have to keep records showing compliance. You surely want to bring transparency and access to updated information to your fellow colleagues within the company. To do that, to drive systematic improvements and follow up on performance metrics you need to have well crafted enterprise information systems able to adapt to shifting conditions and new ways of working. You should connect quality metrics to your brand strategy because what you deliver persistently is what builds your long term image.

The rise of cloud services for enterprises has meant that you can set up a new company much faster and at a lower cost than before in history. More or less everything you need can be bought as a service subscription. The challenge lies in the integration and data exchange between different applications, security and privacy issues. To search, find and process information into contextual insights in an efficient way you will need overlay systems that can join and interpret data which were originally stored in different formats. The use of Linked Data and introduction of company wide standard vocabularies is one way to handle this.

In operations you can have much better control of manufacturing, logistics and services than before. With sensors and tracking capabilities embedded in your products you can have detailed control of the different steps in production and delivery, continuously monitor and improve where there are detected deficiencies in products or processes. Once the product is put into service you can act rapidly and consistently on service needs aided by customer feedback, collected data and analyzed with the help of automated tools.

Future success of companies surely comes down to use of new technologies and automation, ability to leverage all information available better than anyone else, and to make well founded decisions from that. However, at the end of the day, what will make the difference is the ingenuity of people and their decisive actions.