Scaleup Q&A: Simone Barnett, Cube Thinking

Simone Barnett is partner at business growth consultancy Cube Thinking, which delivers Two Zero’s Scaleup Leaders Network.

She has executive director experience  in commercial sales and marketing roles and supports companies with strategic planning, sales and marketing direction, sales and marketing performance.

Simone shares her experiences of helping businesses to scale and explains what she enjoys most about working with scaleups.

What is the most important quality of a scaleup business leader and why?

Being willing to experiment and being humble, being able to admit that they won’t necessarily know what the perfect value proposition for a customer segment is from the start, or how to design for future scaling.

Prototyping, measuring, learning and repeating. Being humble means that often during this scaling period the business leader may have to bring someone into the team who has done it before, so don’t be afraid to admit they don’t know it all, get expert help when you need to.

Who is the most inspirational scaleup leader you have worked with?

Tristam Horn – formerly CEO of DeltaTek Global. He is a great example of an inspirational scaleup leader, building a brilliant, dedicated team and successfully scaling the business over a focused seven year growth plan. I first met Tris when he just started up through Elevator UK programme, then again when I mentored him through a UK Government Growth Programme, then working with the DeltaTek Team on its marketing strategy.

Tris is a really focused business leader who was willing to take a risk in a traditional sector. He identified his North Star and turned up each day motivated and positive, rolled his sleeves up with the rest of his team and went for his goal! He won the Young Professional Award at the Offshore Achievement Awards 2023 and in the same month successfully sold DeltaTek to a trade partner in March this year to support the next phase of international growth.

What common challenges do you see in scaleup businesses and how do scaleup leaders overcome these?

Getting the best team for the journey – having the rights bums on seats is critical to success! This can be challenging to match the right people to the company and the culture, and since Covid it has proven a difficult recruitment market.

It’s important to present the company values, aligning these to your recruitment and retention strategy is key and making sure you have good internal and external marketing communications to support this. It’s not just the experience and skills you are looking for but also personnel that have the same values and will fit nicely with your team and culture.

What is the best piece of business advice you have ever received or given? Why was it important?

Accept failure as learning.

Some aspect of the venture is always in the unknown, whether that’s the business model, the technology or the customer segment. You must be prepared to accept that risk, and to fail along the way, lessons can be learned from these and continuous improvement strategies can be adapted if you are agile enough. This is important to learn to be resilient, to bounce back and keep motivated to moving forward.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned working within scaleups, and how has this impacted you?

Scaling isn’t just about increasing your staff size. While hiring people may feel like progress, make sure that you look at the ROI of the people you are bringing in, think about how profitable your business model is, if you can only grow by adding headcount there may come a point when you struggle to be profitable. You have to spend money on the right things at the right time.

This has impacted many of my clients who have faced similar challenges. Reviewing and innovating the business model is important to ensure you are maximising the margin and not just adding cost and eroding your bottom line.

What scaleup business do you admire the most and why?

There are so many great examples it is difficult to choose just one – so I will pick one from my industry in marketing over the pond Vaynermedia.

The company has proven that content creation in social media needs to inspire and help people, not just constantly push the sale. This business continues to inspire, reuniting the media and creative agency to become a full-service agency was its plan, even when this was not the norm in the industry, and the company has made it work when others have failed.

Which key metrics are most important for scaleups?

Measure the ROI of every expense and manage your cash, it’s king!

Why do you choose to work with scaleup business leaders?

Every day is a school day as they say and scaleup leaders are on a constant learning journey.

I love sharing my experience and of course the best part is learning from them, about their businesses and helping them on their business journey. We must all remain humble on this journey – keep listening and continuously learning.

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