When I joined Capax Global in 2016, I was our 12th employee and we decided to focus exclusively on selling custom cloud technology on Microsoft Azure.
By January 2019, our company had grown to 200 people and we were acquired by Hitachi Solutions. What was once a 12-person tech consulting shop had now transformed into a global team of more than 12,000 people. We built everything including healthcare portals, smart firetrucks, analytics platforms, and mobile search apps.
Capax was nearly 1/3 of the U.S. business at the time, both in terms of people and revenue. I was moved from delivery to operations, tasked with leading the post-merger integration and scaling efforts surrounding U.S. growth.
Operations: The Cost Dungeon
When first tasked with re-designing our organization-wide customer relationship management (CRM) software, I encountered an issue: just changing a single field required comprehensive discussion and documentation, and the team meant to implement improvements was bottlenecked with a laundry list of support tasks. Other teams had similar issues that pushed schedules backed and made improvement difficult.
Despite this, without a unified business system (and email is not this), measuring growth becomes almost impossible. We worked closely to undergo several redesigns: our CRM and project-based tooling, a new data architecture for customer insights, and the creation of visual reports to quickly validate the health of our business.
But while handling acute operational needs are quite important for any company, our goal was bigger than that. We needed a scalable, quantifiable way to turn employee ideas into company-wide acceleration.
You Can't Improve What You Don't Measure
One afternoon in the frigid Chicago cold, I met Sean Ellis for a virtual coffee. He had returned from Hawaii and a mountain trip near his home in Southern California. Rough life I know.
For those who don't know Sean, he wrote Hacking Growth, one of my favorite books in 2019 and a key structural guide for any growth team. We discovered Sean from a growth workshop video AJ&Smart posted on YouTube.
Sean teaches that to change how businesses innovate and optimize, people must experiment aggressively, and use well-understood metrics to quickly validate or invalidate objectives.
Before meeting with Sean, we:
- Validated Product-Market-Fit, a must for any business looking to start a growth team.
- Defined a North Star metric, something Sean asks about continuously in his podcasts.
- Built a system to accurately measure our business.
Now was the time to get serious about a process to grow.
Define & Align Your Levers
Sean asked almost immediately for our levers of growth. As we discussed how we acquired, activated, and retained customers, we noticed that we would also be building growth levers surrounding sales and engineering.
Sustainable growth is a function of how we deliver value to customers. With clearly defined levers for each aspect of the business, we could get everyone to understand, in the same way, how the business grows. We can target areas for improvement, run experiments, and maximize growth for the business.
"The only way to truly understand your business is to take representatives and get them working together to A) define metrics to grow the business and B) show engine to grow it."
We ran growth workshops with existing teams, talked to Sean and others, and step-by-step, we garnered support from our Chief Operating Officer, Engineers, and Leadership.
We prioritized our biggest challenges and brainstormed solutions as a Leadership team and then as an entire company. This led to metrics such as "Average # of Services Sold Per Customer" rather than nebulous terms like "customer for life" and "delivery excellence".
Once prioritizing a specific lever, we broadcasted it throughout the company. The act of broadcasting these metrics created more unification than we had thought and allowed everyone in the business to align around a specific, quantifiable goal.
Capax moved from 12 people to 12,000, seeing quicker organic growth than most companies do in their lifetime. We noticed several engineers had great ideas, but those ideas began to take longer and longer to see implemented. Thus, we prioritized those ideas, rigorously, across the entire organization.
We then defined metrics such as "Average # of Services Sold Per Customer" and shared them across the entire organization. This had an added benefit of aligning where we needed to expend effort and where we needed additional ideas.
Ultimately, we built a team to run experiments on these metrics. That team includes numerous engineers and allows everyone to take part in our business's growth, providing a clear prioritization engine to do so.
We are a nimble team of risk takers that span our domestic U.S. business. In the future, we'll look to expand to our global team—helping to test the launch of new offerings, practices and technologies. Our impact will continue to help the larger Hitachi test and (in)validate new innovations and optimizations.