Running a company in a popular industry is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it invites healthy competition, which drives innovation and helps expand the sector. On the other hand however, hype tends to permeate popular industries and blur the lines between tangible innovation and passing trends, making it more difficult for companies to stand out from the crowd and get on the radar of the right audiences.
Take the example of voice technology – an immensely broad sector, with a multitude of applications, from subtitling, call centre analysis and language assessment to interactive voice recognition. As applications for speech-powered tech become increasingly attractive from a consumer point of view – think personal voice assistants, smart fridges, or cars – the amount of hype in this sector increases exponentially. In fact, Gartner recently placed voice technology at the top of their hype cycle. With estimates valuing the speech recognition market at approximately $13bn by 2022 (http://www.abnewswire.com), it is clear that everyone will want a piece of the pie and businesses will have to get creative to ensure they come out at the other end of the hype wave as serious players in the voice tech market.
Having been active innovators in the speech tech industry for nearly ten years, at Speechmatics we have witnessed and occasionally shaped some of the exciting changes this sector has undergone. Below are the top four things that have helped us succeed.
Developing a “people first” mentality
Our goal is to solve some of the toughest problems in speech technology, and we realised early on that we would need to attract some of the brightest minds in the field in order to achieve that. As a result, we’ve developed a company mindset that focuses on people first and problems second.
In practice, that means investing in team culture and employee success by helping staff gain new skills and develop on a personal level. Salary and share options are obvious yet important factors to keep in mind, especially in a highly competitive industry. Perks aside, what we have found ultimately motivates people to join and stay in a company is working in a supportive environment, where opportunities for growth, both on a personal and a business-wide level, are within reach.
Avoiding common mistakes
Let’s get this out of the way now: no matter how vast your business and management knowledge, mistakes will be made throughout the evolution of a company. In my experience, that is not something to fear – the key is to make the most of all situations you find yourself in and try to avoid the most common pitfalls.
For instance, company growth is an exciting time for any business and can yield great results if managed correctly. In many scale-ups however, growth can become overwhelming and take priority over the preservation of the very the foundations of the business. It is crucial to keep those core pillars at top of mind and adapt them to your growing business – whether that is clarity on the company’s vision for the future, the division of roles and responsibilities, or the value and the culture of the company. Without wanting to state the obvious, a strong foundation is integral to the entire company structure, as it will help you weather any and all phases your business will go through.
Presenting yourself to the world
First impressions are key, both in a personal and business capacity. Once you have a strong company setup, it is time to get on the radar of those people who will help drive your business forward.
Putting a face to the company is a great way to start interacting with audiences, and there are different valid approaches here. In my experience, it is best to let the great team you have put together along with your brilliant products do the talking on behalf of your company, as they represent of best of what you have to offer. Ensure you make those USPs visible by creating different touchpoints for people to interact with your business, whether that’s through social media or relevant events.
Winning at customer relationships
Not unlike most other interactions in day-to-day life, business relationships need nurturing in order to grow into fruitful collaborations. While your business goals should always remain a priority, it is important to remember that it is the people on both sides of the table that keep a relationship going.
Our approach to dealing with our customers is to see ourselves as an extension of our client’s team, which informs our entire working relationship and the way we build our custom solutions. We make sure we are there for the entire journey, from understanding our customers’ business and listening to their requirements, through to the development of the tailored product, its implementation and use phase. We have found that although this approach requires a significant amount of time and resource, the investment is well worth it in the long run. Customers appreciate the support and hard work and are happy to recommend our services to their partners. And there is no better endorsement for a company than word of mouth from happy clients, especially when it comes to generating new business.
As a company that is currently operating in one of the most hyped-up tech industries, our key learning is this: make sure you hold on to your company identity and values and let your products speak on your behalf. This will help you stand out and speak to the audiences that matter most to your business.