There was a period about fifteen years ago, where I was sure we were about to shut the doors to our business……
Our team was small at the time, only about 20 people. We had less money in the bank than we needed to cover payroll. I spent nights lying awake, worrying that I let my employees down.
In reality, that period was a tipping point for what was then called DSL Extreme. Our financials showed a consistent rise in sales. By all accounts, forecasts would have shown we were going to double our revenue quickly.
I lost a lot of sleep worried we’d have to close the doors when in reality, we were about to open more. The real issue was that we didn’t understand how to read our financials. Silly to think about now, but I am not embarrassed to say I grew as a leader.
Fast-forward to 2017 and 2018, and we again grew our sales in the high double digits. And while I am now very well versed in reading financials, there are still challenges that come with growth, and we saw that impact us in 2019.
An increase of 200% to our subscriber base caused issues with platform scalability, which manifested into two unprecedented outages. To say it was embarrassing is an understatement. Knowing we let down the people that count on us is not something I enjoy and not something I want to do again. Especially when so many business partnerships have become real friendships.
The challenges stretched beyond our platform. We doubled our employee base and saw operational challenges in areas where we used to shine. Not long ago, someone sent me an interesting article about how “something weird happens” when a company grows past 150 employees.
The article was spot on in describing some of the more complex challenges we faced with scaling our team. Company culture is the backbone of our success. We built our culture around our people and creating a sense that everyone here is part of something bigger. But, communication and a feeling of inclusion are so much more difficult, with 230 employees spread across North America.
We’ve had to dedicate culture and brand ambassadors and add new layers of communication. We are placing more emphasis on hiring for cultural fit and identifying who best represents us as an organization. I am incredibly proud of how our core group of veteran people stepped up as evangelists, sharing our history and demonstrating our core values to new hires.
Now we are 230 on our team and growing, we have the right people in place to implement change. For 2020, our focus is on two core areas; platform scalability and operational excellence. It may not sound sexy, but it’s the bread and butter for our sustained growth.
For the platform, we are implementing new architecture with key milestones in Q1 that will improve stable scalability and making ongoing enhancements throughout 2020. With that, we are committed to frequent updates to our partner and customer community.
We are holding an open partner webinar on January 23, where we will share our product focus in detail for 2020. If interested, you can register here.
Last quarter, we conducted an audit of our service culture experience by gathering feedback from our employees, Advisory Board members, and conducting customer and partner interviews. We also engaged a consultancy firm to help develop a comprehensive strategy to overhaul our customer experience based on that feedback. We launched the first phase of that plan on January 1, and we expect to move quickly through each initiative.
Any entrepreneur or CEO can tell you when a company faces challenges; the only option is to attack it head-on with grit, transparency, and a thick skin. I have no doubt that we will implement changes faster than most expect, and I am excited to share our progress with you, every step of the way.