May 27 2010

Book Short: There is No Blueprint to $1B

Book Short: There is No Blueprint to $1B

Blueprint to a Billion: 7 Essentials to Achieve Exponential Growth, by David Thomson (book, Kindle) sounds more formulaic than it is. It’s not a bad book, but you have to dig a little bit for the non-obvious nuggets (yes, I get that growing your company to $1B in sales requires having a great value proposition in a high growth market!). The author looked for commonalities among the 387 American companies that have gone public since 1980 with less than $1B in revenues when they went public and had more than $1B in revenue (and were still in existence) at the time of the book’s writing in 2005.

Thompson classifies the blueprint into “7 Essentials,” which blueprint companies do well on across the board. The 7 Essentials are:

Create and sustain a breakthrough value proposition

Exploit a high growth market segment

Marquee/lighthouse customers shape the revenue powerhouse

Leverage big brother alliances for breaking into new markets

Become the masters of exponential returns

The management team: inside-outside leadership

The Board: comprised of essentials experts

As I said above, there were some nuggets within this framework that made the entire read worthwhile. For example, crafting a Board that isn’t just management and investors but also includes industry experts like customers or alliance partners is critical. That matches our experience at Return Path over the years (not that we’re exactly closing in on $1B in revenues – yet) with having outside industry CEOs sit on our Board. Our Board has always been an extension of our management and strategy team, but we have specifically gotten some of our most valuable contributions and thought-provoking dialog from the non-management and non-investor directors.

Another critical item that I thought was interesting was this concept of not just marquee customers (yes, everyone wants big brand names as clients), but that they also need to be lighthouse customers. They need to help you attract other large customers to your solution – either actively by helping you evangelize your business, or at least passively by lending their name and case study to your cause.

The book is more of a retrospective analysis than a playbook, and some of its examples are a bit dated (marveling at Yahoo’s success seems a bit awkward today), and the author notes as well that many of the “blueprint” companies faltered after hitting the $1B mark. But it was a good read all-in. What I’d like to see next is a more microscopic view of the Milestones to $100 Million!