Wayne Simmons – CEO of The Growth Strategy Company

[quote style=”boxed”]I would say “just do it.” I truly believe that being an entrepreneur is more of a “natural state of being” than people realize. [/quote]

Wayne is an accomplished executive, innovator, value creator, and entrepreneur and co-author of GrowthThinking: Building the New Growth Enterprise. He co-founded The Growth Strategy Co. to offer a new and innovative approach to equip companies for sustainable business growth. As CEO, he leads the vision, strategy and growth of the company.

Prior to co-founding The Growth Strategy Co., Wayne was founder and CEO of ICOR Partners LLC. Wayne successfully led the company onto Inc. Magazine’s ‘Inc. 500’ list of fastest growing US companies, a recipient of Consulting Magazine’s ‘Small Jewel’ Award, and ultimately, to an acquisition in a private equity transaction.

Previously, Wayne was the founder and Managing Partner of IO2Group, Inc., a telecommunications industry product development firm. Wayne led IO2 Group from start-up through acquisition by Primus Telecommunications Group (NASDAQ: PMUG).

Earlier, Wayne worked for major global advisory firms Ernst & Young LLP (Center for Technology Enablement) and Deloitte Consulting and has been a trusted advisor to C-level executives at Fortune 500 corporations, venture capital firms, and small and midsized companies.

Wayne began his career specializing in airborne reconnaissance for US Army Intelligence.

Wayne is an alumnus and Fellow of The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and has a BS degree in Political Science/Sociology from the University of the State of New York. He has also completed the Competitive Strategies Programme at INSEAD (Fontainebleau, France), and is a Certified Blue Ocean Strategy and Business Model Generation Practitioner.

What are you working on right now?

I am spending virtually all of my time with new and prospective customers of GrowthCloud® our recently launched software-as-a-service, enterprise platform that is dedicated to helping companies grow.

Where did the idea for Growth Thinking and GrowthCloud come from?

The idea for our book on business strategy, Growth Thinking, came from our personal experiences as serial entrepreneurs combined with the strong desire of our large corporate clients, who were keen to figure out ways to operate, perform and grow more like Silicon Valley startups.

From those experiences, we spent two years working with them to co-design and develop a software platform custom built for business growth. GrowthCloud is a way to use modern cloud, analytical and social technologies to equip and mobilize companies around the idea of achieving sustainable business growth and improving their future growth prospects.

How do you make money?

We deliver GrowthCloud as a software-as-a-service (SaaS) through an annual subscription model.

What does your typical day look like?

At this stage of the company, I do so many things that it is hard to identify a “typical” day. Generally, I spend about 70 percent of my day travelling, doing online demos or otherwise engaging with our customers and prospective customers. The other 30 percent is focused on my CEO duties, which means working with our product and marketing teams, setting up strategic partnerships and hiring.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I bring ideas to life by constantly putting out “challenges” to my team. If you ask my team, these challenges can often seem far-fetched at first glance. But, what I am really trying to do is to push creative and intellectual boundaries and provoke the unorthodox thinking that can generate great conversations and ideas from among my team.

Next, we encourage input and perspectives from every functional area in the company and insist that everyone contribute their own ideas and challenge mine. Finally, our workspace is made almost entirely of whiteboard walls, so our environment also contributes to turning raw ideas into value-added product enhancements and solutions for our customers.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

I am really excited about the use of cloud-based software in the enterprise. Beyond the hype surrounding “cloud,” this trend will fundamentally alter how technology is developed, delivered and procured in the corporate setting. I believe that the economic benefits and speed-to-value that can be derived from using cloud-based services alone make its adoption increasingly more certain over time.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I started my career in airborne reconnaissance in the US Army. It certainly wasn’t a “bad” job, but as you might imagine, I filled a lot of sandbags and did a lot of very physically challenging tasks early on. Those experiences actually define me to this day – it gave me a tremendous work ethic, confidence and an ability to take on significant responsibilities. Most importantly, those experiences taught me how to lead by example, and lead from the front. That means that I don’t believe in presiding over people, I believe in being in the proverbial trenches with my people and never asking them to do anything that I wouldn’t or haven’t done.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

Honestly, I wouldn’t change a thing. The success and failures that I’ve experienced along the way are priceless opportunities for me to learn and continuously get better.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

As an entrepreneur, I have embraced the need to make strategic “pivots” and recommend it to everyone. To me, pivoting means adjusting coarse based on continuously challenging legacy assumptions, experimenting and observing. Pivoting is the opposite of getting locked into conventional ways of thinking, and is a critical ingredient for entrepreneurship and innovation.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

In my last company, ICOR Partners, I struggled to build an integrated leadership team and find a “number two.” As a founder, my failure in this area was a combination of my inability to “let go” and a lack of patience on my part. I am still working on that to this day, so overcoming it is a work in progress.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

As a serial entrepreneur, my mind is always racing to come up with “the next big idea”. Lately, I’ve been exploring as to whether to spin out and commercialize upon our content that we create internally for our clients as a peripheral service. With the adage that “content is king” and most companies struggle to create original, thought-leadership content, we seem to be naturally good at it. It could create new growth opportunities while continuing to provide value and reduced costs for internal clients.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be and how would you go about it?

I have an unorthodox idea of how to “change the world” by trying to stop the industrial decline that we are facing in many parts of the country. To do this, I would sit down with every Global 2000 CEO and tell them that one of their top leadership priorities is to make their companies “more entrepreneurial.” I believe that large companies and corporations don’t think entrepreneurship applies to them anymore. If I could somehow contribute to changing that mindset, these large companies could become dynamic, growing organizations that would generate the jobs and economic activity needed to provide a good quality of life for employees and their families, as well as sustain and improve the communities that they are in.

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

I am an introvert. I have been an entrepreneurial CEO for 12 years, and in that capacity, I’ve had to be visible and vocal – the face of the company. In reality, that is very difficult for me because my nature is to be more introspective and operate more in the background.

What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?

I am a big fan of Linkedin, Google Docs and GrowthCloud. First, LinkedIn provides a forum to engage with my broader network – I learn a lot about what’s going on in the business world from LinkedIn. Next, I love to collaboratively work on documents with my team using Google Docs. Of course, I would be remiss in not mentioning that I love using our online product, GrowthCloud. As we grow our business, we use our own tool to help us identify the gaps and patterns that can reveal opportunities for us to grow.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Again, I would be remiss if I didn’t say that your community should read my book Growth Thinking: Building the New Growth Enterprise. I say that because, business growth is such a powerful, mysterious force. We wrote this book to demystify growth and make it more accessible, visible and achievable. I also recommend Alexander Osterwalder’s book Business Model Generation. In this book, Alex really articulates how business models are the new unit of modern commerce and should be understood, designed and renewed to create value.

Three people we should follow on Twitter and why? (please don’t include yourself)

I would recommend following Reid Hoffman, Steve Case; and Jony Ive on Twitter. These guys have a consistent track record of “getting it”. If you can tap into their brains, even just a bit via Twitter, it would be beneficial.

When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?

I come from a gregarious family of immigrants from the Carribbean by way of Panama. Our large 4th of July family get-together was a running series of comedic moments that made me laugh and smile.

Who is your hero?

My hero is a guy that I never got to meet. Legend has it that, as a teenager, my great grandfather stowed-away on a ship from the Caribbean to find work building the Panama Canal. I imagine him working under horrible conditions, digging that canal with picks and shovels – the idea of it makes him my hero.

What aspect or lesson from Growth Thinking has been the most helpful for you in growing a business?

Growth Thinking is about entrepreneurship, growth strategy and business innovation to drive sustainable business growth. I am lucky, because I get to apply those principles in my own business, but also with those of my clients and customers – I live and breath this stuff!

If you could say anything to prospective entrepreneurs, what would it be?

I would say “just do it.” I truly believe that being an entrepreneur is more of a “natural state of being” than people realize. If people forget about pursuing wealth and focus on creating value for people, then whether you get rich or not, entrepreneurship – the idea of creating something of value from nothing – can be both exciting and rewarding.


Wayne Simmons on LinkedIn: