Disrupting your business before someone else does (Opinion)

Tim Hamilton is the founder and CEO of Praxent. The views represented here are his own and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Tim is also a member of Bloomberg Breakaway, a network of CEOs and founders who lead established and emerging industry leading companies. Find out more about Bloomberg Breakaway here.


Creating a “Disrupt Your Business” Team: The 8-Step Journey to Disrupt Your Business Before Someone Else Does

Over time, established companies develop set processes and mindsets based on what has and hasn’t worked for them in the past. Those methods become the default for the organization, sometimes setting invisible limits on growth and goals.

While visionaries in your organization may seek to challenge the status quo in order to achieve higher levels of progress, many others are likely blind to the possibilities that lie beyond their existing way of operating.

Instead of trying to change the entire culture of your organization, seed your transformation through a ‘Disrupt Your Business Team’ and accelerate your ability to respond to competitive threat.


The Disrupt Your Business Team

The Disrupt Your Business Team (DYBT, for short) serves both an inward and an outward focus. Its goals include:

  1. Disrupt your established business with a validated innovation that drives demand in the market.
  2. Compete with your business and win.
  3. Impact your established organization through its work, replacing stagnation and the status quo with an innovative company culture.

How to Own Innovation: 8-Step Transition from Conventional Business to DYBT

Step 1. Develop Vision

Step one is to develop the vision and hypothesis for a disruptive innovation. The innovation must significantly increase the value your organization delivers to customers.

Don’t try to force a DYBT into existence as your first step. Instead, prioritize the work of innovation and let the team develop in progress.

Step 2. Cultivate Alignment with Key Leaders

Early on in the journey of disrupting your business, it’s important to cast vision among key stakeholders. You may encounter resistance, so it’s helpful to view the process as a journey. Instead of forcing change and deflating morale, focus on recruiting those who are passionate about demonstrating the power and importance of innovation.

Find one or two leaders within your organization who have vision and passion for catalyzing change and disrupting your business. Commission the initiative, express your full support and make sure they are provided with the freedom, time and budget to confidently move forward with the work.

Once innovation has made its mark on your organization through a genuinely disruptive digital product, you and your leaders won’t have to work very hard to convince anyone of its value.


>> Learn how to facilitate 5 simple activities for practical and targeted innovation. Download our Field Manual for Rapid Innovation.


Step 3. Engage a Product Manager

Product managers find and prove product market fit. It’s critical that you don’t try to place the work of both product management and project management on one person. These are two very different focuses.

Hire a product manager to determine how well the product concept and vision holds up to the test for successful innovation: “Does what we are building meet customer needs in the market in a way that also achieves positive unit economics?”

Their job focus includes:

  • Validate the digital innovation concept
  • Realistically forecast the lifetime value of a customer
  • Validate potential for achieving positive unit economics
  • Define MVP (Minimum Viable Product)
  • Create a product roadmap
  • Enforce the product roadmap

Step 4. Engage a Project Manager

In most cases during this stage, it’s wise to outsource project management to an organization that will not only take on the temporary burden of overseeing the new product development, but will simultaneously help you build their replacement team in-house.

Unlike product managers who are focused on market fit, project managers are responsible for delivering within time and budget constraints. Their goal is to get the product to market with the team resources they’re given.

Step 5. Execute & Deliver MVP

Walk alongside your project management and development partner as they execute on the product roadmap. Engage in frequent check-ins to learn from the process and continue cultivating innovation competencies among internal leaders.

Working closely with this team will clarify the roles you’ll need to hire when it’s time to take the project in-house.

Step 6. Achieve Positive Unit Economics

Positive Unit Economics is a milestone in the financial life of a business. It occurs once the lifetime value of a customer exceeds the cost of acquiring one new customer. Getting here is often impossible without first taking the previous five steps in this list.

Step 7. Rapidly Expand Market Penetration

Now that you’ve achieved Positive Unit Economics, it’s time to scale your marketing spend and move quickly to acquire customers. As long as the cost of acquiring a customer remains less than the lifetime value of that customer, your marketing spend is only constrained by cash flow and the size of the addressable market.

At this stage in the game, your fledgling business will be attracting competitor attention. It’s time to begin building a marketing team.

Commission the team to move quickly and assert niche ownership over the right marketing channels before your competitors do. Now is your chance to dominate as much of the market as possible, making it difficult for competitors to catch up later.

Step 8. Build Your Own Team

Early in this journey, your established business was dependent upon outside resources for project management and product development. With an innovative product or service now on the market and a marketing engine in place, you can transition to full ownership of continued product development by replacing outsourced teams with your own in-house project managers and developers.

From a practical standpoint, moving the team in-house will lower operating costs and shorten release cycles, but the impact of owning a DYBT stretches far beyond immediate ease and savings.

With innovation as a core competency and a culture transformed by disruption, your organization will be set to catch and ride the next wave of change before it crashes overhead.

About Tim Hamilton, Founder & CEO, Praxent

Tim Hamilton founded Praxent in 2000 when he was 16. He has since grown the company into a leading digital innovation agency headquartered in Austin, Texas with clients and a team that spans nationwide. Today, Tim passionately invests in strengthening Praxent and its clients alongside the best software architects, delivery leads and developers in a contagiously upbeat company culture.

A graduate in MIS and Economics from UT, Austin, Tim has extensive experience with digital innovation, enterprise IT and business management.