Learn Early How to Be Big

Last week I worked with a startup business that’s killing it. Since they got going, about five years ago, they’ve doubled their sales, doubled them again – and doubled them again. This year growth has slowed to a “mere” 60%. They are now, officially, a big company.

These guys have been creating content for marketing programs since Day One but have never thought about content as a strategic function in their business. It has just been something that “everybody in marketing does.” When I said, “Let’s talk about creating a team, a governance plan, and a standard process for all these content projects you want to launch,” they grumbled and mumbled. They wanted to jump right into what kinds of content they’d create. So I said, “Okay, let’s talk about those first.”

We stepped up to the whiteboard and mapped out four new initiatives: a digital magazine, two blogs, and a customer community. We identified success metrics and timelines. It would take lot of work to accomplish everything represented on that whiteboard.

I started asking questions:

  • What are the “big rocks” that will impede our success?
  • What are the showstopper things that will have to be tested before we can scale our effort?
  • How many more resources will we need to create content after all four initiatives are launched?
  • How will we align our SEO strategy and our audience development strategy across the four platforms?

The top two answers to those questions was “I don’t know” and “We’re going to need people to own that.”

That was my moment. I said, “Now can we talk about how to manage content as strategic function of your growing business?”

See, big means that you can afford things. Big means that you’re ahead of the game and can take risks. Big means that you use words like “process,” “ownership,” “governance,” and “standards.” It means that you have meetings that focus not on deliverables – the content itself ­­– but on how your content teams are working together.

Being big does not mean doing more of what you did when you were small.

Usually, we don’t know how to be big, because we never learned how to be big. No one ever asked us, “How will you scale you?”

Getting big may remove you from doing work that you love. It may force you to give up the flatness of your team’s decision making. It may replace one overwhelming workload with another.

Perhaps most insidious of all, your desire to hold onto your work, the flatness of your team, or your familiar workload may keep your company from ever getting big.

Be ready for looming bigness. Don’t fear it, and don’t avoid it. Businesses that cross that threshold unprepared end up retrofitting their infrastructure, their processes, and their strategy. It isn’t pretty. So as you grow, do the work. Learn early how to be big so that you can minimize the pain in “growing pain” and keep the dreaming in “dreaming big.”

Robert Rose
Chief Strategy Officer at The Content Advisory
As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS.

Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.
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Author: Robert Rose
As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS. Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.