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Rapid growth: watch out for the boomerang effect

In collaboration with Emerce - Disrupt a market. Become the next Airbnb. Grow as fast as Mollie. Dutch scale-ups are more ambitious than ever before, viewing the whole wide world as their potential clients. Yet the path to global success is strewn with pitfalls, one of which is often overlooked: your ability to interlink all client data. Mollie has now solved that problem.

Let’s paint a scenario common to many rapidly growing technology firms. After a successful first round of financing, the founders can start investing. And so they do. A Sales department sprouts up, Marketing expands from two people to a dozen, and Customer Service gets professionalised.

New tools

In the wake of these workforce expansions, the company takes on a small arsenal of new tools practically overnight. The brand on the label often comes down to the personal preference of a manager at the time. So Sales gets an application that simplifies following up on new leads, and Marketing is no longer dependent on just Analytics and Excel. The new website gets its own content management system. All intended to shift up to third or even fourth gear. ‘Pedal to the metal’ is the name of the game.

Cracks in the organization

But here’s the thing: within a couple of years after this initial professionalisation, cracks almost invariably start to appear. What starts as a tiny crack can become a gaping chasm. All of those different tools, initially gobbled up with such enthusiasm, now appear almost impossible to integrate. For instance, Sales can’t see when their client was last in contact with Customer Service. The marketers also complain that they have no way to incorporate the website data from the content management system into their main tool. It seems no one in the organisation can create a simple interface for the growing volumes of client data coming in through different channels.

KPI based approach

One place where this causes issues is in communication with investors. All scale-ups regularly report to the people who acquired a chunk of their shares in exchange for financing. They have a lot of questions. About the Customer Lifetime Value (CLV), to name just one example. That’s the amount of money a customer will spend at your company over their lifetime. They’ll also want to know how often an average customer returns to the platform or store. The data you need for these answers are floating around somewhere in the organisation, but no one’s quite sure where. No one can find them. 

Strategic choices

What’s actually going on here? In the initial professionalisation, the founders failed to consider the strategic consequences of their decisions. Their haste in selecting the new tools came back like a boomerang, and now actually poses an obstacle to further growth. Imagine you’re a scale-up with the ambition to disrupt the market, to be the next Airbnb or to grow as fast as Mollie. 

You would be wise, in an early stage of your growth, to think about the tooling your different departments will one day use. In any case, ask yourself these five questions:

  1. Does it allow us to interlink all of our client data, and can we view everything centrally?
  2. Can we use it for a KPI-based approach?
  3. Can we use it to generate reports?
  4. Can it scale up with us if we grow to ten times our current size, for instance?
  5. Can we keep costs under control?

That's how Mollie does it

The right tooling is no magic wand for success in your business. A whole slew of other factors also play a role. But an effective system that interlinks all data can relieve much of your growing pains. That’s what they found at Mollie, the payment provider that managed to attain the mythical status of ‘unicorn’ last year. This firm opted for HubSpot’s platform-based ecosystem, which greatly facilitates the flow of client data through their system. Hoang Pham, Head of Growth at Mollie, wrote the following regarding HubSpot: ‘This means not every department has to buy HubSpot: they can use interfaces with existing systems. That point was critical for us.’

Easy upgrades

HubSpot also features a reporting tool that makes it simple and easy to build custom dashboards. According to Mollie, this improves forecasting and streamlines processes, so the sales teams can use the tool effectively. It gives the entire team access to the sales insights they need to support Mollie’s further growth. In addition, the platform allows Mollie to scale up quickly and easily. They can upgrade HubSpot at any time for the specific functions they need.

All good reasons to develop a long-term vision for tooling early on. You’ll have to make the right strategic choices as a scale-up. To turn your website into a lead generator, improve results and reduce effort for your commercial department, and make life a bit easier for your marketers.

Picture of Camiel Freriks
Camiel Freriks

Strategy Director & Founder