Unicorns, Cockroaches and Profit

Unicorns, Cockroaches and Profit

Most of us cringe at the thought of a cockroach, while unicorns bring visions of fanciful horned horses and mystical happenings.

When it comes to business, however, it turns out that unicorns really are the stuff of fairy tales and the lowly cockroach…well, maybe their DNA is just what you need for business success.

In a recent article in Business Insider, descriptions are given for two different approaches to business growth:  the Unicorn and the Cockroach.


“A unicorn is characterized by superfast growth, fueled by VC money. They’re not profitable but the idea is that the business will reach “scale” first, before concentrating on making money once it’s won plenty of market share. Uber is a prime example.

“A cockroach, by contrast, is a business that builds slowly and steadily from the get go, keeping a close eye on revenues and profits. Spending is kept in check so that it can weather any funding storm.”

The hallmark of the unicorn business has been their massive scaling and incredible growth, often with little or no revenue – forget profit – to show for it.  Some have been able to translate that growth into revenue but many are struggling to find a successful business model to leverage their customer base into revenue.

Back in the “real world” where the rest of us live, minus the VC funding, sustainability should be a guiding principle.

I have defined five components to sustainable growth.  Of course, there are a myriad of things that contribute to sustainable growth and I’m not attempting to mention them all here (though please do add your wisdom in the comments – your input is welcome).

  • Your Business Services
    • Define, know and fully understand your core business
    • Structure everything in your business around providing that product or service at a high level of quality. Ensure that your service or product helps your client resolve a specific problem that they want to resolve.
  • Your Clients – Define, know and fully understand your customer
    • Structure your marketing message to resonate with your target client and set-up your products or services to solve a specific problem experienced by your target market; and do it in a way that…
  • Your Money Metric – Pinpoint and identify the specific and critical action in your business that triggers the revenue
    • I call that action your Money Metric™ and I’ve developed a guided process for identifying it in your business. When you know your Money Metric™, you know what action to take to increase your revenue.  Tracking your Money Metric™ provides data that is a lead indicator. It will tell you when you are getting off-track while there is still time to course correct and improve the outcome.
  • Your Financials – Stay on top of your financials
    • Financials are lag indicator, a “look-back” telling you what already happened. While it’s too late to do anything to change the period in which your financials are reporting, they do give you a picture of the financial health of your company and can help you to identify where problems may exist.  They also give you the helicopter view of whether or not you are meeting your projections.
  • Your Processes – Make what you are doing repeatable.
    • Structure everything in your business in a way that can be repeated and then document it so that you can continue to repeat it as others join your team and your business grows and expands. This includes processes for client acquisition, service delivery, internal operations and processes – in short, everything you do in your business should be repeatable with consistency and with accuracy. 

While the idea of a cockroach may make you shudder (let’s hope this doesn’t become the next buzzword in the business world), the DNA of a cockroach is gold for any business.  A cockroach can survive and thrive regardless of environmental conditions – or all the drastic and deliberate attempts to get rid of it.  For our purposes, let’s drop the term “cockroach” and call this the Sustainable Approach. 

If you would like to discuss what’s happening with growing your business or if you’re curious about Money Metrics™, connect with me and let’s talk. 

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