In the 12 years since Hillel Sackstein founded Virtual Graffiti Inc. as an e-commerce software development company, the business has sprouted from a startup outfit in Sackstein’s home to an international IT solutions provider with nearly 30 employees and $23.8 million in 2010 revenue.
As a result, the company has outgrown the systems and processes that Sackstein originally implemented. As growth opportunities have arisen, Sackstein has needed to ensure that there is a strategy in place to meet the demand.
Sackstein spoke with Smart Business about how he has strategized for growth and how you can keep your own business ready to grow.
How did you begin to construct your growth plan?
First, we identified what the issues were, because we definitely had to document those challenges. We had an idea as to what we needed in terms of systems and processes and what we needed in place to take us to the next level. We then did a thorough investigation of all the possible options, and there were a number of them. One was to develop a lot of functionality internally here, using our existing systems. Or, we thought that we could do what we did end up doing eventually, which was a company overhaul of our systems and finding a platform as a starting point for doing that.
That really meant doing a thorough investigation of all the software products on the market, and I did that personally.
What would you tell other business heads about constructing a growth plan?
In order to grow as an organization, it is definitely about looking at your business and understanding what the strengths of your company are. No company can be good at everything, so it’s really key to have a good understanding of what is different about your company and what you can do with your company to make you a stronger competitor, able to find that competitive advantage.
In our business, we are in the technology field and things are changing very rapidly. We’re always looking for the hot new products, what the trends are, what businesses need, what sort of technology companies are buying. Then we try to make sure we’re in those markets. Also, we try to make sure we’re developing the right partnerships for us, that we’re partnering with the right service providers and so forth.
How do you ensure your company is growing in the right manner and direction?
It’s finding something or a need in the market that is going to differentiate you from your competitors. We look for opportunities where there is recurring revenue in the product we might be able to sell. There is a lot of product out there that we might be able to sell very easily, but it’s a one-off sale. It may cost us a lot of money to advertise and find the customer that will buy the product, but very often, we may never hear from that customer again, because that product serves their needs.
Where we really want to look for areas in which we can grow is a product that has a recurring component to it — products with service contracts or products that are sold on an annual subscription kind of basis. That way, there is a component in there where we’re working with customers to ensure that they’re renewing those services, and it’s also an opportunity to find out what their needs are at that time, if they have a need for other technology solutions that we might offer.
What would you tell other leaders about capitalizing on a good growth opportunity?
In business these days, it is very hard to find that niche where there is no other company. It’s hard to find a silver bullet where you’ve found a product that no one else has made. In anything you do, there is always competition, there are always companies that are going to look at what you’re doing and copy it, and the growth opportunity is really going to come by being in a business that is going to be around for a long time and doing what you do well. That is really how to grow — it comes back to concentrating on what you do well, focusing on that and not allowing your company to get sidetracked. If you excel at that, that is what brings your business long term relationships. That is really how we’ve tried to grow our company.
How to reach: Virtual Graffiti Inc., (949) 870-3500 or www.virtualgraffiti.com