The Five-Year Itch
Reaching milestones and achieving success is all about planning for growth and measuring progress along the way.
By Diana L. Mirakaj
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Depending on the context of the question – whether a job interview, a discussion about a relationship, or something else – this simple query can turn a light conversation into a CIA-level interrogation. Being prepared with a quick answer may postpone a second round of grilling, but eventually you’ll need to back up your position with concrete details on how you intend to get yourself where you want to go. Where you see yourself in 5 years, that is.
To get ahead, you have to think ahead. So when it comes to the details of long-term planning, you can’t expect them to magically happen overnight. Achieving goals requires setting milestones and tracking performance along the way to ensure objectives are met. This is especially true when it comes to growth forecasts.
Research by The 2112 Group finds that confidence is rising, particularly for solution providers, who aren’t settling for low growth. The average solution provider is raising its expectations for revenue performance and growth. The acceptable rate of growth climbed in 2016 for the first time in three years. In addition, the number of solution providers that expect faster-than-market growth in 2016 jumped 27 percent over 2015’s number.
To be big, you have to think big. Far too often, business owners make the mistake of waiting to implement more formalized operational practices until they become “larger” or more “mature.”
Growth expectations have a lot to do with greater business discipline and governance. More solution providers are investing in strategic business planning, marketing, sales expansion, and new products and services. While the level of business acumen in the channel – particularly in the middle and lower tiers – remains questionable, the attempt to think and act more strategically is paying dividends.
Rarely does growth come organically and without effort. Solution providers are making growth plans and investments to turn their growth expectations into reality. Many are investing in the expansion of their operational capacities to meet market demand and achieve goals. Here are a few notable investment areas:
Existing Products and Services: More than one-half of solution providers plan to grow their businesses through the expansion of sales and marketing of existing products and services. This is a positive change, as solution providers have traditionally been more focused on technology skills, preferring to invest in technicians and engineers rather than sales and marketing personnel.
Professional Services: One-half of solution providers are looking to expand their capacity for professional services, which carry the highest sales margin of any of the major products and services generating revenue for solution providers.
Cloud Computing: One-half of solution providers are looking to expand their cloud practices through partnerships with service providers. Two in five are looking to partner with cloud infrastructure providers. With the amount of attention being given to cloud computing, there’s a reasonable expectation that cloud will become a greater percentage of the average solution provider’s revenue over the next 12 to 24 months.
Acquisitions: Roughly one in five solution providers see acquisitions as a means for growing their business. Only 8 percent expect their businesses to be acquired by a larger company in the next five years. While the channel seems fixated on consolidation, the reality is that most solution providers see organic growth as the best path for business expansion.
To move forward, you have to think forward. It’s okay to try something different: a business model, value proposition, or marketing message. Any or all of these things can differentiate you from your competitors. Being disruptive can bring success, and while you may not know exactly where you want to be in five years, there’s no question that “successful” is a great destination.