A very close friend recently posed the question to me, "what does it mean to be a one-hundred million dollar company?" The question intrigued me, so - as I always do - I took pen to paper in order to unearth the answers.
Business analysts may consider that the answer to this question is simply revenue & timing, driven by key initiatives. While this may be true, we must dig a bit deeper into the psychology of the business, and more importantly, its members, to understand the foundation of a $100M company.
I would like to begin by saying that I am looking forward to working along side each of you, Joe, Isaac, and Josh, as we build that very foundation here today, every day. I am confident that with the talent, skill, and open-mindedness at hand, together we can build a $100M company. And if we stay true to a few key principles, we can build something even bigger: a legacy. We can make Zilicon iconic.
Aim For Iconic
Through a great mind, Simon Sinek, I have learned a great deal about successful organizations. They always start with why. Take a look at companies that have become globally iconic. What do each of them have in common? They tell a genuine story; they sell their authentic vision, not their products. Their products are simply extensions of their vision, and their vision is nothing more than the overarching mission of their brand. And that, my friends, is the definition of iconic: a brand that has transcended utility and found its way into the hearts and minds of discerning and existing consumers alike.
There are several extremely successful companies that did not understand this, and history has shown how the market made room for those who did. Take, for example, Microsoft: the pioneers of computing innovation in the 80's and 90's. The entire world ran their operating system, but as technology diversified, they retained their product-driven strategy at the cost of their vision. When portable digital music players were first introduced, they started with the product and its technical advantages. It went something like this:
This is a Microsoft portable music player. It can store 8GB of music. You can use it to play the songs you download on [some website]. The price is $299.99. We make great computers, so you can believe we make digital music players, too.
In this scenario, Microsoft appealed to the technical and cost advantanges of their product to explain how their product is a good choice.
Compare this to the Apple strategy. When they introduced their first portable digital music player, they started with why, kind of like this:
Imagine a world where you could carry your entire music collection in your pocket; where a thousand bands come flying through your earbuds in an instant; where you can re-live last nights concert in a heartbeat. At Apple, we believe in this world... and we want to bring it to you. Introducing the iPod.
It's pretty obvious that Apple's price point was certainly not going to win the consumer, nor was complex techno-jargon, but their why worked wonders in appealing to a public that yearned for experience, for identity, and for lifestyle fulfillment. This is why you now own an iPod and not a Zune.
So, I repeat: We must build and expose our work, our passion, and therefore our products, around our purpose. We become iconic when we are no longer viewed as a company delivering products, but as a brand sharing an experience. You never see shoes being sold by Nike. You only see the passionate athletes who make use of their product. You see the sweat and dedication they exhibit. Nike doesn't sell shoes. It supports a healthy lifestyle. So, in the same fashion (no pun intended), we must ask ourselves, WHY Zilicon? What do we believe? What is our story? Note the language being used here. I did not say "You" or "I", I said "We".
The Intention of Turning 'I' into 'We'
This, I believe, is the second part of what makes a $100M company. The dynamic of its actions, and subsequent language. As innovators and members of a purpose-driven team, we are holding each other accountable, we are trusting eachother, to represent this brand in every waking moment of our existence. This requires a great deal of integrity as well as resilience, in our personal and professional lives. This requires order where chaos once existed, and a bit of chaos to replace the order.
Great brands are built around great people. And great people know, both, their strengths and their weaknesses. They build each other up by cross-pollenating ideas through collaboration. They do not always agree on everything, but they put their egos aside & they take leaps of faith. Faith in themselves, in their beliefs, and in their team. It is not by virtue of our gifts that we will succeed, but by our love for the journey of who we become and what we learn in the process. By the prospect of having a person we do not know hold our product in their hand one day, and say, "this has made my life better."
When we are graced by a higher power with the fortunate ability to bring people together, and when a founder is graced with the ability to found a company, each are also given great responsibility for the personal wellness of their team members. And so, I want to end with the following promise to each of you:
We will find new ways to do old things. We will find new things to build. We will agree, disagree, and sometimes, agree to disagree. We will execute at the speed of light. But through it all, we will be driven by our common purpose, our calling. We will operate ethically and we will create a sensation out of our strategy simply for the fact that we believe in it so deeply. We will experience trials and tribulations together, and succeed nevertheless. We will change the world with our ideas. And when we look back on this post in a few years, God-willing, we will remember why we ever started.
The question began as:
What Makes A $100M Company?
but, now we can be sure that
- it's not
what, it's why.
- it's not a
company,it's a brand.
- it's not a question, it's the answer:
'Why' Makes A $100M Brand.
Peace be upon each of you. Let's make this happen.