When to Use a Talent-First Business Growth Strategy
INK Communications Co. describes its regional expansion into Denver and why the team prioritizes its people
Most Coloradans are familiar with John Muir’s quotation, “The mountains are calling and I must go…” What is less well-known is the second half of that statement: “…and I will work on while I can, studying incessantly.” This calling of the mountains, and the abundant resources around them, combined with the desire to continue good work and a passion for learning guided INK’s expansion to Denver in 2015. But the road well traveled? That we did not take.
Here’s how INK Communications Co. turned typical business growth strategy on its head and came out better for it.
INK started by doing its research. What are these abundant mountain resources? For a communications firm with our roots in technology, it wasn’t the trees we were excited about, but the burgeoning tech scene in Denver, Boulder and surrounding areas. And having one of the industry’s first clean energy practices, we were also encouraged by the wind and solar development happening nearby. All signs pointed to Denver as the perfect landing pad for INK’s first satellite office. Business was here for the taking, but the question became who would take it? And how would those people impact an award-winning culture? These questions drove our expansion strategy:
TALENT FIRST, BUSINESS SECOND
Sure, brilliant businesses have been built on a business first strategy. The selling of products and services brings cash flow in to hire talent – a tried-and-true business equation that works.
But, it’s not the only way to go. A higher-risk-higher-reward “talent first” strategy can work well if you recognize your business in one of these descriptions:
YOU'RE EXPANDING AN ESTABLISHED BUSINESS REGIONALLY
In scouting out a new site to put down roots, there are myriad considerations:
- Is the business you want to attract available in that area?
- Are the regional economics favorable (think taxes and cost of living comparisons)?
- Is the vibe of the community what you want for your company culture?
If all of these considerations are favorable, then it’s time to assess talent. Who can lead you to the business in this new area? You will give yourself a huge advantage as you enter a new market if you take a people-first approach. Look for talent that has experience, a network and a great reputation in your new town.
YOU HAVE CASH TO INVEST
There are no better returns on investment than what you’ll get on hiring true talent. Sure, you can keep your money in the bank, you can put it into a new office, you can invest it in tools, or put it back into your clients. You can and should do all of these things. But if you find yourself truly assessing what’s the best bang for your buck, know that it’s always people. The right team will not only find new business and help you hold onto the business you have, but they will create new revenue streams, new ways of doing things, and constantly inject energy into your business. People are what make good companies grow.
YOU NEED THE TALENT TO GET THE BUSINESS
You’ve decided to grow. You’ve done the research, assessed the market, know what you have to offer that will make you stand out in the crowd. You’ve even dipped your toe in yourself, but sales efforts are falling flat. It’s become clear – you need the right people to get the right business. Get thee to LinkedIn. It’s powerful search functionality can help you find good people in the right geographic area and even show you if they have connections in the industries you’re targeting.
YOU HAVE A CULTURE-FIRST COMPANY
Here’s the deal: Hiring the wrong people will take a company down faster than losing your biggest client. Being a culture-first company was, and remains, a key point for our decision to go with a “talent first” growth strategy. While growth is good (and is in fact, a mantra of ours), it is not at all good if it’s driven by a desire for profit alone. If you too are a culture-first company, a talent-driven growth strategy will be a natural for you.
For INK, taking a talent-first approach has made all the difference. The right people have helped us grow faster than initially anticipated, and have strengthened our culture at the same time. While it’s important to assess business opportunity as you create your growth plans, know there is another formula for business success that doesn’t start with the product or service you’re selling. It can start with the people.