Those armed with the aspiration to grow a successful business are spoilt for choice on the number of insightful blogs from top influencers they can find online which detail the practical lessons needed to scale. Whether it’s keeping down costs, focusing on sales and marketing or finding ways to exponentially increase profits, these guides have the ability to help businesses revamp their operations and actualise success.

But can these proverbial checklists really help heighten the trajectory of your business? Is character the real ingredient to a business’s success?

David J Brown,  CEO and co-founder of global tech company Ve Interactive (Ve), was asked just that when delivering his keynote speech at the Performance Marketing Insights (PMI) in London. Running for over ten years, the event is the only two-day event for affiliate marketing, lead generation and biddable media, which makes it an unmissable day in the performance marketing industry.

This is David’s boiled-down equation into those key principles he believes can take a business to the stratosphere and how they mirror those practical lessons he put in place to achieve success at Ve. You can rewatch Brown’s keynote session in full above. 

1. Innovation

Being innovative and unique are fundamental characteristics to success, and having an IP strategy is crucial to building a successful business. It is also important to keep control of your company and to give your business time to evolve alongside these innovations. The use of VC funding is therefore not always the answer to smart growth. You’ve got to leave enough time for your business to evolve its full technology stack and service.

2. Being the first or the better second

If you are first to a marketplace, this makes you the innovator and the leader but you also have to prove the concept works. If you are second to the marketplace, this allows you to change the first company’s innovations and to do things differently. This can be seen with businesses such as, Uber Eats, who changed the innovations of Deliveroo in the food delivery market.

3. Market size

Another key to success is to capture market size as an opportunity. What the market size is, how it’s organised and accessed are very simple but crucial points in developing your strategy and measuring your own success.

We can learn from Ford’s business strategy, which defines success by the way you look at the market size; by focusing not on the percentage sold in the market but the percentage of the market you are selling to.

4. Thinking internationally

If your offering is unique enough – take it global. The tech industry has no borders, which is a fascinating opportunity to be able to take a tech business to another country and to know it will succeed. This is shown with Ve as 76% of the company’s revenue comes from outside of the UK.

People believe that they do not have the knowledge needed for international business but even a simple Wikipedia search can teach you a great deal. Take the Uppsala method as an example. You find a partner in another country, do some testing, start deploying your own people and then build your organisation around them. It’s just about having the confidence and energy to want to scale internationally.

5. Scalability

Scalability is when a company can maintain or improve profit margins while increasing sales volume, and it’s an important subject which needs to be discussed. All factors and implications need to be looked at, including insurance strategies, finding the right talent and predicting what impact growth will have on other areas of the business.

6. The right staff

It may sound obvious, but it is vital to have different types of people in your organisation: the creative, the marketer, the lawyer etc. to make a business work. It’s also important to attract the best talent even if you can’t afford it. The biggest job for a bootstrapped CEO is to share your passion for the business so people will join you. If you have the passion, the people will come.

7. Start-up, to transitional, to corporate

There are three stages businesses go through: start-up, transitional and corporate. This is shown with Ve, which went from four employees to – currently – over 850. As you scale, the goal posts change and the criteria for what you need as a business evolve exponentially. As with many of these tips, it goes back to talent.

Different types of people are needed for each stage of your journey and you need to surround yourself with those willing to fight in the trenches with you. Those same people also need to recognise and adapt according to the growth stage of your business.

Sit still as a business, look in the mirror, have a look at where you are as a business and make sure the people around you are still fit for purpose.

8. Hunter or hunted

A great many companies never understand whether they’re dominant or passive in a marketplace. Companies are either the hunter or being hunted, and to be able to grow faster you need to be the hunter. For instance, buying companies allows you to be the hunter and it’s key to growth and gaining new talent.

9. Clear plan

It is vital to have a clear plan; as Winston Churchill once said: “Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential.”

10. Be a fighter

The larger the business, the greater the pressures it faces. There is also more risk, especially within the digital industry. It is therefore essential the management team have a ‘fighter’ mentality to be able to battle their way through the challenges and pressures that come with success.

For more tips and advice, watch a video from David J. Brown’s full session ‘The route to constructing a billion-pound tech business’ at PMI: London 2016.