Customer Stories

Growth Is the Real Stress Test for Start-Ups

Zervant is a model example of a successful start-up business – net sales has increased 3,200% since 2012. The company has grown from a pair of founders working out of a space of 20 square meters, to over 40 employees in almost 600 square meters. What kind of challenges does such a fast-growing company face?

Culture Is the Company’s Ace Card

From the beginning, we only had one non-negotiable rule: “We don’t hire people we wouldn’t like to spend our free time with,” says Tanja Lindner, Brand Manager of the invoicing software company Zervant. “This is important because a start-up company can only succeed if it attracts the right talent from the very beginning…in that, we have succeeded,” she adds.

Growth companies are usually defined as companies that have an average growth of at least 20% each year for three consecutive years in terms of personnel or net sales. By these standards, Zervant’s growth has certainly soared.

At the time of growth, it is especially important for all of the personnel to band together and commit to goals, values, and ways of working. This is because despite successes, resources are usually scarce at the beginning, reminds Lindner.

What Should a Growth Company Take Into Account?

Crystallizing the business model, insuring the investors, finding customers…these are all things that founding a new business requires, but there are plenty of challenges in growth phases as well. Even with growing pains, the rest of the business should stay in control of things such as the sales processes, human resource management, and the greater organizational structure.

According to Lindner, there are two essential issues that every growth company should take into account: “When the personnel triples in a short time, you need to be sure that the core processes continue functioning well without hurting the company’s culture”.

Another critical factor is the fast-increasing need for physical space.

Inflexible and long leases do not serve the company well if the business is steadily growing. It is therefore also important for a growth company to find a leaser that is willing to be flexible for the needs of the company. This fact may not always be apparent, but Zervant has not had any issues.

“We have moved due to growth four times within Technopolis’ spaces in the last five years, Lindner calculates. “The most suitable space was found downstairs from the old office. The change only took half a day and work was able to keep flowing. The less trouble, the better for the business!”

The Key Is Focusing on the Core Business

For many start-up companies, the biggest challenge is that they are simply not prepared for rapid growth. When the situation arises, the scarce resources instead will be allocated to the core business for the support functions and then chaos ensues.

In these situations, the flexibility of the partners is especially important.

“For example, we rarely hold meetings where all of the personnel need to attend. That makes it more sensible to rent large conference rooms when it is needed, but not to have them sitting around empty. So, the campus environment is very appropriate.”

According to Lindner, for Zervant’s success, it has been critical to focus on the core business and to minimize all of the extras – like an overly complicated strategy, running costs, or the number of service contracts.

The thought process for Zervant is very familiar because the company’s mission is the same: helping entrepreneurs succeed with their businesses.

 

Zervant is a Finnish software company that makes a free invoicing software for small and micro companies  and freelancers. The business’ offices have been located at Technopolis’ working spaces since 2010.

 

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