Guest: Angela Korompilas, a coach at CEO Coaching International. Angela has 25 years of experience in global sales & distribution, hospitality, and family businesses. She’s also an active member of YPO.
Quick Background: Anybody can be a critic, especially when times are tough and a business is struggling to find its footing in an uncertain economy. But, to paraphrase Teddy Roosevelt, not everyone has what it takes to stand in the arena and lead a company to BIG.
On today’s show, Angela Korompilas explains how she led her hotel operating supplies and equipment provider to 10X growth and $1 billion in revenue.
Keys to 10X Growth from Angela Korompilas
1. Set data-informed goals.
“Successful businesses are always iterating,” Angela says. “They’re always evolving. They’re always looking for ways to be better, do better, introduce new services, new products. All of those transitions or transformations start with data-informed goals, right from the beginning. Why are you making this change? Are there internal forces motivating you? Are there external pressures to do so? Are you making a change to be offensive or defensive? Maybe you’re trying to meet an unmet need in the marketplace. Your business model could be growing obsolete. You could be losing market share to competitors. In my experience, it was a multitude of smaller transitions that sort of built on top of one another that ultimately resulted in a really significant transformation over time, and an entirely different company.”
Essentially, following your data to these small, iterative changes is how you break a BIG 10X growth goal down to size. Hit the smaller goals that the data point towards, and you’ll move closer to the overall goal step by step. And with a thorough analytical footing, you’ll be able to know if your company is following a well-defined 10X growth path, or wandering after shiny new objects that are pulling you off course.
“We were in the hotel supply business,” Angela explains, “and the data showed that hotel development was occurring primarily outside of the U.S. What we discovered was that we could go on the offensive and have that first mover advantage, secure foreign-based hotel chain business that might be looking to expand in the U.S. But also, from a defensive measure, there was nobody in our space offering a full range of products globally. So we thought that it could be a really great way for us to insulate ourselves from competition in the States by being able to retain and secure additional U.S.-based hotel chains as they looked to move internationally. Ancillary data painted this picture that informed our decision to embark on that transition.”
2. Build your future org chart.
“At CEO Coaching International, we help our clients build their org charts of the future,” Angela says. “I did this in my own business every year. I would think about what do we need to do next year? Who do we want to be? Who do we need to be? We generally looked out the next year and up to three years forward, sometimes five. It really helps us think about what skills we’ll potentially be needing, what experiences we want. Do we want someone who’s been there, done that to bring that expertise into the business? Or is it something that we want to cultivate and grow from within?”
If you want your company to hit 10X growth in revenue, you have to prepare your org chart to grow 10X as well. Some of the people who have been with you from the beginning will rise to that challenge and grow into the team members that you need. Many others can’t, or won’t. The best that the CEO can do is give employees a chance to step into that future role and see if they run with it or fold.
“I’m somebody who likes to give my associates an opportunity,” Angela says. “Provide the training, provide the skill-building opportunities, get them a coach. If that isn’t enough, is there another role in the company that they can serve in a great way and deliver meaningful results? Or do we need to part ways? Within my first year as CEO, I recognized that half of the senior leadership team needed to be replaced. And it was very challenging and it was really hard, but after it was over and we had secured replacements and laid out our plan, there was no looking back. There wasn’t a single person on the team who said, ‘Gosh, I sure wish so-and-so was still here.’ They were great people and they really helped and contributed in a meaningful way, and they were going to go make great contributions at other companies.”
3. Optimize operational processes.
Just as some long-time employees might be holding you back, some of your legacy processes might be getting in the way of your goals as well. No company that achieves 10X growth does business the same way it did as a start-up. As you pass major growth checkpoints, put all your “best” practices on the table and start asking questions. Why do we do this? Do we need to keep doing this? Is there a tech or outsourcing solution that could free up key team members to do something else? Have we documented this process so that if a team leader leaves someone else can step in? Are customer service and sales processes consistent? Are our branding and marketing messages clear?
“To scale, there has to be an easy way to replicate the sales and operational mechanisms,” Angela says. “Without that, the company is going to accumulate significant bottlenecks. And then you’re just going to start having failures that could be really costly over time. Having sloppy operations is a very quick way to turn the tide from profitability to negative EBITDA. So being operationally tight can also really be good for the bottom line.”
4. Plan for capacity.
Once you have your people and processes ready for 10X growth, you can start thinking about the infrastructure you’re going to need to support them. But while having a sparkling new office building or warehouse with your name on it may sound appealing, Angela warns that bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better.
“Back in the late ’90s, early ’00s, inside sales was all the rage in our business,” she explains. “The way to get more customers was to hire more inside salespeople. And in order to have inside salespeople, you needed office space. So we invested in lots of property and built our first new building because we had outgrown the space we were in. There were meant to be five or six of these buildings, just loaded with people. And then this thing called the internet happened and people started placing their orders online.”
History doesn’t repeat itself, but the post-pandemic workplace certainly rhymes with Angela’s experience in the dot.com era. And even if the death of the office and brick-and-mortar retail has been somewhat exaggerated, it’s doubtful you’re going to need a 10X physical footprint to achieve 10X growth. Instead, your capacity planning might shift to expanding your remote workforce, enhancing your data and analytics so that you can create more effective digital marketing campaigns, or broadening your supply chain so that you meet rising demand.
“That’s why you build the financial models to do the scenario planning,” Angela says. “It’s foundational, always. In a smaller company, even adding five salespeople, if it takes six to 12 months for that salesperson to produce an ROI, it’s a huge financial drag on the business. So do you not hire all five at once? Do you hire one and try to shorten the ROI time? You learn and iterate. That’s the way you’ll get better at scaling.”
5. Communicate efficiently.
“How you bring people along during a transformation is essential,” Angela says, “because if the leader of the organization isn’t talking, people are making up their own stories about what’s going on. And the first thing people are thinking about is, ‘What does this mean for me?’ So we, as leaders, sometimes get really excited about, ‘We’re going to make it to $50 million in three years’ time.’ And then the people that you’re presenting that to are thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m already working as hard as I can. I can’t possibly work any more hours. I’m so stressed out. We can’t handle that. This department is so far behind. That’ll never work.’ So always in the communication, start with how is it going to impact your team?”
More specifically, start with positive recognition. Praise the hard work that has led your company to this 10X growth opportunity. Acknowledge the people who have put in those extra hours and performed exceptional customer service. Be transparent about what your goals are, how you plan to hit them, what the timetable is, and how you’re going to give your existing team members additional support so that everyone can succeed together.
And then, listen. Being receptive to feedback is the only way you’re going to build the buy-in you need from your team to start Making BIG Happen.
“Every week that I was in the office, I met with a group of six-to-ten people from the same department,” Angela says. “And there was no prescriptive agenda. I wanted to hear what was going on in their department, at their desks. And then we used that as an opportunity to try and make their jobs easier or better. I found out all kinds of things that were broken that were relatively easy to correct. The bigger you get, the bigger the problems get, the less people communicate across departments. I learned the valuable lesson that, inevitably, things go wrong, and it might not be the CEO’s fault, but it’s still the CEO’s problem. And great communication is a really good way to stay out in front of that.”
1. Align your entire company to your 10x growth goal, including team members and processes.
2. Get BIG, not bloated. Your infrastructure should be robust enough to support growth but nimble enough to control costs and adapt when necessary.
3. Give employees a chance to grow and you’ll learn who deserves a seat on your future org chart, and who needs to be replaced.
About CEO Coaching International
CEO Coaching International works with CEOs and their leadership teams to achieve extraordinary results quarter after quarter, year after year. Known globally for its success in coaching growth-focused entrepreneurs to meaningful exits, CEO Coaching International has coached more than 1,000 CEOs and entrepreneurs in more than 60 countries and 45 industries. The coaches at CEO Coaching International are former CEOs, presidents, or executives who have made BIG happen. The firm’s coaches have led double-digit sales and profit growth in businesses ranging in size from startups to over $10 billion, and many are founders that have led their companies through successful eight, nine, and ten-figure exits. Companies working with CEO Coaching International for two years or more have experienced an average EBITDA CAGR of 67.8% during their time as a client, nearly four times the U.S. average and a revenue CAGR of 25.5%, more than twice the U.S. average.