Eight-year-old Eagle Genomics joined the SME Growth Challenge just as it was preparing to take a huge leap forward.
The award-winning company specialises in smart data management software and has a growing customer base that includes global players Unilever and AstraZeneca/MedImmune. With investments of £1.4 million already under its belt, it is setting out to raise a new round of equity funding. Executive chairman, Anthony Finbow, explains why they signed up for the six-month programme: “We’re on the cusp of significant growth, so this was entirely the right time for us to engage with the Entrepreneurship Centre’s SME Growth Challenge. The input and challenge the programme provided is a tremendous support for Eagle Genomics and for the levels of growth we’re targeting.”
Smart data management for life sciences is a young and volatile market where a gazelle-like, accelerated dash to growth is entirely on the cards for agile and innovative companies like Eagle Genomics who have a deep understanding of both market and customers. Anthony, and Eagle Genomics’ CEO, Abel Ureta-Vidal, appreciate that the strong and courageous leadership required to deliver exponential growth demands attention to detail as well as long-term vision. “For anyone leading a company, particularly in our uncertain and fluctuating marketplace, the big challenge is to translate strategy into detailed plans that make every member of the team understand and feel connected to our goals,” says Abel. “The SME Growth Challenge has given me the tools to define, measure and manage our day-to-day work, at the same time keeping us alert to every opportunity that will realise our big strategic objectives.”
The tools Abel is referring to include a framework for cascade planning that the Cambridge Judge Business School faculty share with SME Growth Challenge participants at an early stage in the programme. “As individuals and as a company, we’ve all found this framework really valuable,” says Abel.
Abel describes the framework he’s adopted as a tree, with each strategic goal split into component parts down to the level of individual leaves, where each task and target is assigned to one person or one role. Several months into implementation in the Eagle Genomics’ office, Abel feels that the contribution to more effective leadership is clear: “What the faculty shared with us is much more than a planning tool. It’s bringing employees on board behind the senior management team and the goals we’re working towards. Everyone in the organisation can now connect what they do directly to our strategy for market penetration and growth.”
As you’d expect, strategic focus is high on the agenda during SME Growth Challenge sessions, with the senior executives taking part reporting that they and their businesses appreciate the rewards of carving out time to shift the mindset away from fire-fighting to more considered thinking. Abel agrees that the SME Growth Challenge offers a structured thinking space enlivened by input from academics and his peers in the business world. He particularly prizes the opportunities the programme’s relaxed and supportive environment create for reflection and innovation: “The role of CEO is high energy and exhausting because you always have to show leadership. You have to be definite and decisive while at the same time demonstrating that management can deal with uncertainties. In this situation, surrounded by others in the same position but in very different businesses, I found a risk-free forum to share new thoughts and try out new ideas.”
Abel and his executive chairman Anthony Finbow are both emphatic that this focus on the big picture, coupled with independent, unbiased feedback and robust challenge from all involved in the SME Growth Challenge, has broadened the company’s perspective and helped Eagle Genomics articulate its value to clients as well as stress-test its strategy for fast-track growth.
“It’s important to seek input from multiple channels,” says Anthony. “What Cambridge Judge Business School’s Entrepreneurship Centre offers in the SME Growth Challenge complements what a board can bring. For example, while a board has its own rich expertise, it doesn’t necessarily have the breadth you need. The SME Growth Challenge has added that expert understanding and overview of the principles at play in the markets where we’re operating. Our participation in the programme has been invaluable as we prepare for a huge leap forward.”