Hyperloop is here. In the Arts District of L.A, Elon Musk’s new venture employs over 400 people committed to get Angelenos to commute to San Francisco through a vacuum tube, at the fantastic speed of 750 mph. The technology is revolutionary, which helps the company attract top talents, excited to contribute to the first major innovation in ground transportation since Benz and Daimler’s first gasoline-powered car in 1885.
But maybe as revolutionary is Hyperloop’s innovation in business management. While it is not unusual for tech companies to offer stock options as incentive to their employees, it is about the only thing top engineers get at Hyperloop. No cash at all, until a possible IPO in a few years, or never. The company has invested virtually tens of millions of dollars in R&D work hours already, paid only in stock options at a fixed hourly rate!
Beyond providing evidence that one can still get people to work hard by promising the moon, Hyperloop also stands for a new type of company: hyper-companies. From the technology-fueled Hyperloop to the low-tech bakery across the street, that “magically” attracted hords of customers from all around town and quickly turned into a successful franchise, hyper-companies share the outcome of hyper-growth. Spectacular growth, made possible by high-speed collaboration, super-agile processes, and flexible management.
Hyper-companies collaborate with customers, with suppliers and internally at very high speed, allowing them to learn fast and to iterate towards delivering always better products and services. They crowdsource ideas from customers –relentlesly collecting insight to improve their commercial proposition– when others spend months with consultants to create the perfect business case. They engage with customers on social networks and keep them posted with text messages, when others debate with agencies on tag lines for a new billboard advertising campaign. They make information and knowledge easily accessible and editable to engineers, technicians, sales and support teams, from anywhere and at any time; quickly spreading good experiences to build upon, and warning about dead ends to avoid, when other companies struggle to explain KPIs after the fact, in monthly status meetings. As a matter of fact, recent research that we’ve conducted at Sage shows that companies providing faster and simpler access to data to employees grow 10% faster than average, bring new products faster to market, and sell 3% more to new customers.
Hyper-companies have mastered agile processes, allowing teams to deliver at a faster pace, and giving the company the ability to scale on any given project in a very short time. They’ve discarded procedures –the established or official way of doing something– to the benefit of actual processes –the actions to take in order to achieve a particular end. They’ve distinguished unnecessary validations from the value-add steps that ensure greater quality and control. They’ve empowered employees to cut corners, when necessary to satisfy customers and deliver projects on-time.
Hyper-companies have flexible management practices and flat organizations. For example at Hyperloop, some employees are given the role of “hypermasters” to help fast track projects in certain areas of business, regardless of their position and typical role in the organization. Hyper-companies do not only recognize specialists, but also the “multipotentialites” in their employees, who may be talented engineers AND creatives, product designers AND social media advocates. They have flattened organizations, allowing for more autonomy and engagement of their employees. They have clear org charts, and tight oversight of business decisions, but allow for flexible execution and foster employee mobility. More, they have smashed down company walls and develop outside webs of collaborators. They invest to protect their IP while engaging at the same time with networks of outside experts, that can easily collaborate and add value to the company projects, with controlled –but simple– access to the information they need.
Technology for growth
New technologies help hyper-companies achieve higher performance. Regardless of size or industry, they leverage technology as an enabler for faster collaboration, agile processes and more flexible management.
It often start with business management software not being in the way, but accelerating growth. Accounting processed in real time, as part of the flow of operations. Collaboration happening instantly, around sales, on the production floor or in the warehouse. Automated workflows accelerating the entire supply chain. Project management leveraging a common knowledge base, and a shared view of status and KPIs by all employees around the globe, at any time.
I have the privilege to work every day with talented engineers and marketers who bring such business management solutions to life at Sage. They build the next generation cloud solutions, that help customers of all size and shape accelerate growth with better insight, faster collaboration, and more flexible processes across their operations. So their company may also become a hyper-company.