When Thad Eidman decided to jump into a start-up, he did so with both eyes open and a “secret” formula in mind. Probe a successful business leader about their business, and you will usually unlock a simple model that guides them day to day and keeps them focused on what is important.
Before launching Knoa Software (www.knoa.com)—a fast-growing software firm that helps companies like British Telecom and DHL get more value out of their enterprise software—Thad had already honed his secret formula. He was previously Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Constellation Ventures, a New York-based, $450 million venture fund, and before that was the co-founder and President of iFLEET/ERS, a leading provider of technology to the transportation industry.
He also spent 12 years at Dun & Bradstreet including stints at McCormack & Dodge, D&B’s software division and A.C. Nielsen, D&B’s marketing research division.
During all of that experience, he saw that companies often invest tens of millions of dollars to install a new enterprise system (e.g., Oracle, SAP) but fail to realize their full benefits because users don’t adopt the program or, if they do, they do not use it efficiently. Thad reasoned that by going deeper than other performance management solutions and measuring how end-users actually use software applications, companies could address many of the issues that prevent them from delivering the kinds of benefits the software application promised.
The reasoning seems to be working because Thad and his team have been growing Knoa at 100% year over year and they now have 130 customers. Their success is due in part to the simplicity of their business-building approach.
When a problem looks complex, it is because you have not yet mastered it. Masters reach simplicity. As Charles Mingus, the late American jazz composer and pianist, once said, “Creativity is more than just being different. Anybody can play weird—that’s easy. What’s hard is to be as simple as Bach. Making the simple complicated is commonplace—making the complicated simple, awesomely simple—that’s creativity.”
Thad’s experience leads him to such simplicity.
What is his “secret formula”? In an interview I had with him, Thad shared that a successful business has four steps.
1. Get a customer
2. Make them happy
3. Get a referral
I’ve been thinking about this model for the past two weeks and it has really clarified things for me. It is deceptively simple but, I think, clearly captures how to build a growing company. If each day you check to see if everything you are doing fits into one of these areas, then you can feel confident you are advancing.
So today, look at your agenda, walk through your to-do list and mark anything you are doing that is not getting a customer, making them happy, or getting a referral. Then see if you can take that item off your list. I think you will find yourself more focused on the productive aspects of your company, and in turn, you will become more successful.
Kaihan Krippendorf (www.kaihan.net), a founding Fellow of the Center for Leadership and an adjunct professor in the College of Business Administration, is the author of Hide a Dagger Behind a Smile and The Way of Innovation. This article was originally written as an entry for his FastCompany.com blog “The Outthinker: Mavericks that Out Innovate the Competition.” The opinions expressed in this column are the writer’s and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of either FIU or the College of Business Administration.
View all articles by Kaihan Krippendorff.