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Ken Hawk

Chief Energizing Officer of iGo (Formerly 1-800-Batteries), Reno, Nevada

Verne Harnish has identified four common growing pains for Fast Growth companies at various stages of development: generating revenue, amassing cash, maintaining gross margins and predicting profitability. Which challenge is weighing most heavily on your company now and how are you working to overcome it?

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Our current challenge is generating enough cash to sustain our incredible growth rate. At iGo we are serving a huge $5 billion-plus market and we want to “take the hill” as fast as possible. We are investing heavily in our Web site and e-business and will continually need cash to invest in making all our customer experiences delightful.

To address these cash needs we are planning an IPO later this year. In the meantime we are negotiating with a handful of powerful corporate strategic investors that will give us more than cash, cash plus strategic synergy.

Verne Harnish has identified three major stumbling blocks for Fast Growth companies: inability of leadership to grow, inability of management and engineers to assemble systems and structures to handle new complexities and growth, inability of the company to position itself within a larger market containing harsh competitors and in-depth strategies. Has your company run up against any of these stumbling blocks? If so, how are you working to resolve the problem?

The stumbling block we have run into most often is outgrowing our people. We have a great team, but when you are growing as fast as we are, the demands of a few key positions are bound to outgrow some of the early team members in those positions.

To resolve this issue we invest heavily in the three R’s:
Recruiting: Get great people with a capacity for fast growth.
Retention: Treat your team as if they were the most valuable corporate asset because they are the most valuable corporate asset.
Review: Do reviews often to make sure people are keeping up with the changing demands of their roles.

What benefits have you reaped from identifying your company’s core principles early in the game and sticking close to those principles? What do you do to keep those core objectives at the forefront of your business strategies?

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We founded the business on one simple belief, busy people on the road need help making their life easier. We started with solving the portable battery problem and have grown to be a true life saver to people using mobile computing and communications devices worldwide.

To keep these core objectives alive we use storytelling. Basically, a changing set of juicy stories of our teammates helping customers or someone on our team doing the impossible. This reinforces our beliefs and communicates our mission in a way that is easy to relate to and easy to tell other teammates!

Do your employees engage in a regular huddle session where they can exchange progress reports and questions? If so, what are the benefits and challenges of such a meeting?

Yes, we do this in several areas of the company. The benefits are that we communicate well with each other and stay on top of the ever changing internal and external environments of the company. The challenges are staying informal enough to encourage wide participation, yet being structured enough to keep it productive.

Visit iGo on the Web.

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