How band-aids, duct tape and bolts can help your business grow

boost-business-growth band-aids

Is your business in a position to grow? Source: Unsplash/Redd.

I’ve been lucky enough to participate in Airwallex’s rapid growth over the last few years. But when I first started going to events — about two and a half years ago — I was commonly asked, “Who’s Airwallet and what do you guys do?”.

Here’s a look under the hood at how we overcame some of our growing pains, with a combination of band-aids, duct tape and bolts.

Band-aids over every little thing

In 2019, we had one product in the market, a decent amount of funding and a handful of customers in Australia. We were known as a fintech unicorn, but no one really knew what value we offered. Oh, and we didn’t have a CRM (customer relationship management system).

In my first month, I realised we needed to start calling leads (that were expressing interest) to get them onboard and using our platform.

And so, every single day at 8am, I logged into our CRM (which we also finally setup) and manually routed our leads one by one to the sales team. I would do this every single morning, even when I was on annual leave (not something I advocate) otherwise our sales motions would just stop.

We could have spent days coming up with eloquent solutions, built long, drawn-out procedures or tried to automate. But early on speed is more important than getting to the ‘right’ long-term answer.

So instead, we applied band-aids. We chose the ‘98 Corolla over the Tesla Model S.

Upgrade to duct tape

We grew exponentially in 2020 and 2021, both in terms of people, and in the amount of enquiries we received.

Then the band-aids started breaking. The time it took me to assign leads each morning ballooned to over an hour. Sales reps grew frustrated with commissions. Our few tools were bursting at the seams. As a result, the customer response time started to blow out.

When you begin scaling, the band-aids that once helped you get started, can become a hindrance on growth. For instance, our initial sales commission model was likened to “Zach Galifianakis calculating numbers in the air”. It seemed reasonable when we had two sales reps, but was next to impossible with new functions and a growing team.

We removed the band-aids and started applying duct tape. For commissions, this meant a simpler model that was more transparent and easier to calculate. This commission model didn’t last forever, but was simple and sufficient enough to help us scale.

Secure with bolts and tighten the screws

Duct tape is great. Your team gets the right tools to get the task done, maybe with some manual work. However, with a team multiplying across many geographies and functions; marketing, sales, operations, account management, onboarding… you’re spending a lot of money on fresh rolls of duct tape.

Ultimately, the tipping point here is automation and driving alignment across tools and teams.

Marketing had a different CRM to sales, which had a different one to partnerships, which had a different one to operations — and none of the systems talked to each other.

When you tighten the screws, you consolidate and commit to a standardised, automated approach that draws on previous lessons; often from a time when band-aids and duct tape were the best option. We eventually consolidated back to a single CRM which was finally integrated with adjacent tools.

We applied band-aids, replaced it with duct tape, and only over the past six months got around to bolting things in.

As you grow, acknowledge whether you’re deploying band-aids, duct tape or bolts (and when you might be growing out of a particular operational fix). Remember, you need all three to scale.

Sam Kothari is head of growth ANZ at Airwallex. This is an expanded version of an article that was first published on LinkedIn


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15 days ago

Love this! Very insightful!

Last edited 15 days ago by Justin
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