Vision Critical began 15 years ago with a disruptive concept – that research could be a much more engaging experience for respondents through the use of better visuals and more interesting ways for companies and their consumers to collaborate on research efforts. It is somewhat poetic, therefore, that this month’s installment of Transform focuses on this highly innovative company (continually ranked in the top five of GRIT’s most innovative companies) from the standpoint of its own strategy for “winning”. Andrew Reid, founder of Vision Critical, shares the insight gained during the firm’s 15 years of growth to over C$100 million in annual revenues. Vision Critical is a cloud-based customer intelligence platform that helps companies build engaged, secure communities of customers they can use continuously, across the enterprise, for ongoing, real-time feedback. Let’s take a look at how this developer of Insight Communities has achieved its tremendous growth.
Recognize it is all about value creation. Andrew is emphatic that the primary mission of any business is to create value – for its clients, employees and shareholders. The creation of value is not a static event and is the raison d’être for transformation. What creates value today is not what will create value tomorrow. Understanding the elements of value creation is essential to a successful business strategy. The move to a subscription model for Vision Critical’s services is a prime example of value creation.
Get excited about what competitors are doing, then leverage the learning. Andrew’s film school background launched his career in market research with a different perspective – one which results in the company looking beyond the horizons of market research for a vision of the future. He is clearly an advocate of embracing new technology – not a surprise as the DNA of a technology company is firmly embedded in Vision Critical. However, he also sees lessons in the success of companies such as LinkedIn, a firm Andrew believes has mastered ongoing engagement with its digital audience. LinkedIn members are able to reap multiple benefits from the relationship beyond simply being a source of job prospects or the “new resume”. Its members are able to quantify their “digital self”, including understanding how their behaviors are driving profile visits, where they stand relative to others in their peer set and facilitating activities that can change their digital rankings – all in an environment where LinkedIn has earned the trust of its members.
Move the cheese – often. The message from the business bestseller “Who Moved My Cheese” by Spencer Johnson M.D. is be ready to change quickly and enjoy it again and again. This is a key theme for Vision Critical. As Spencer Johnson wrote “you have to smell the cheese often so you know when it is getting old and the quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you can enjoy new cheese”. Andrew believes Vision Critical has been really good at reading the industry tea leaves. Their dramatic growth from C$5 million in 2006 to more than C$100 million today argues they have been. Perhaps the “move the cheese” lesson is one that our industry needs to take more to heart.
Accept the pain of focus. As Andrew said during the interview, “In today’s world, it is hard to be the best at everything”. Vision Critical has opted to set its sights on being the very best in the world at Insight Communities. He spoke of a very painful decision to move away from a well-performing service offering. The primary motivating factor was a belief that if Vision Critical did not focus on Insight Communities, they would fall short of their goal to be the best in the world. Focus is never easy but the market research world has not been kind to generalists of late.
Take it global. No one will argue that we live in a global village. “Think global, act local” is as relevant a message today as a decade ago. Insight Communities are highly attractive around the world. However, nuances exist in various markets. Communities developed by Vision Critical in Singapore and Germany have unique characteristics to align with cultural expectations. This represents yet another aspect of transformation – global adaption.
Keep the compass on your True North. For Vision Critical, the confidence in their ability to scale lies in the executive team’s alignment with the company’s True North. This assures everyone will make decisions from a similar framework, maintain the essence of their cultural values and focus on the same ultimate goals.
Vision Critical was born out of disruption and remains an example of much needed innovation in our industry today. We know what Vision Critical looks like as a C$100+ million company. The real intrigue lies in what it will look like as a potential C$1 billion company in the years ahead. I have no doubt it will get there.