Raghu Potini is a master of scaling up. After founding Egen in 2009, he has grown his profitable Chicago-based firm, a builder of cloud-native data platforms and applications, to $50 million in annual revenue and 300 employees in the U.S., serving many Fortune 500 clients. The company has made the Inc. 5000 five times along the way.
Recently, he shared some of his key strategies for scaling up.
Put strategy first. Potini disagrees with the idea that “culture eats strategy for lunch.” He prioritizes working on strategy, believing that a strong strategy leads to the growth that creates opportunities for the team to do interesting work alongside smart, talented colleagues. “If companies are winning new customers, the team get new opportunities,” he says. “That is what is going to create a great culture.”
Make every day count. Drawing on the Scaling Up system for growing a company, Potini has aligned his team around quarterly and annual goals—but he doesn’t stop there. He relies on his management team to break these benchmarks down even further into daily goals, such as progress in product development, which internal teams track. “Making significant progress every day is what we strive for,” he says.
Embrace high-velocity experimentation. Every month, a team within the company produces one new innovation and a write-up on how it was created. Currently, for instance, the team is experimenting with new product ideas, as the company transitions to a more-product based business model. This not only leads to new revenue sources but also helps his team cultivate an entrepreneurial mindset. “At certain times, you don’t have all the answers, but you have clarity for where you need to put your next step,” says Potini.
Hire slowly, fire quickly. Egen interviews more than 600 engineers every quarter in an intensive interview process based on Topgrading. Potini sits on the interview panel to make sure the company hires A players who fit into the company’s culture, which celebrates the challenge of solving cutting-edge problems in the marketplace. “I make sure I know everyone who is coming inside the company,” he says. If Egen makes a mistake in hiring, the team course-corrects quickly.
Invest in radical stability. To create a culture that serves customers well, Potini realized he needed to retain his best people, and some have been with the company since the start. Potini has kept his team engaged by focusing on building a family atmosphere where the fast-growing team celebrates special occasions like birthdays. He also offers opportunities for his team to grow professionally by exposing them to book clubs, conferences and speakers who come to the company every six weeks as part of an innovation series. “It is not only entertainment—it’s an education,” he says. With many professionals eager to advance in their careers, that makes Egen a place they want to stay.