Building a growth strategy for a corporate-backed startup - Case Plugsurfing
How to create an ambitious growth strategy for a corporate-backed startup working in an exciting, fast-growing electric vehicle charging market?
Plugsurfing is an e-mobility service provider and charging service for electric vehicles, connecting its customers to Europe's largest, most up-to-date electric vehicle (EV) charging stations with digital payment services. Plugsurfing became a part of Fortum's Growth Club for Digital Clean Energy Ventures called Valkea through an acquisition back in 2018 and was recently merged with Fortum’s existing internal software startup business for EV charging point management.
At the beginning of 2021, Plugsurfing had a recently assembled, highly committed, and excited leadership team that had set ambitious growth goals for the business. The team knew the electric vehicle charging market well but needed help building a new growth strategy to successfully navigate the turbulent waters of their booming market.
Coventures has expertise in corporate-backed startups and scalable businesses, an area where the leadership team wanted to boost their understanding. Our entrepreneurial skills-set convinced the leadership team, and they invited us to facilitate the strategy process. In the facilitator's role, we could bring in new methods and ideas on how Plugsurfing's leadership team could build a strategy that would be easy to implement and owned by the whole company.
The team wanted to know how we could help them transform Plugsurfing into a billion-dollar business.
Before the actual strategy process, we had gotten to know the Plugsurfing team during our Product Leadership Benchmark in late 2020. Based on the benchmark project, we already knew a lot about the state of the product organization, the product roadmap, and how well the organization was aligned with the product vision. It was quite clear to all of us that building a new strategy was the right move.
We moved forward to a three-phase Strategy Sprint to facilitate the growth strategy update and help the leadership team prepare for strategy execution.
During and between six workshops, we gathered data to understand the current state of the business segments, assessed their synergies and considered what strategic options Plugsurfing had in the emerging electric vehicle charging market.
The team also ran an employee survey to engage the whole company and collect a wide range of perspectives and ideas about the strategy. Overall, we wanted to make sure we had wider team participation throughout the process to ensure that the strategy wasn't perceived as being created in a room behind closed doors but that the whole company was part of it.
From understanding the current state of different parts of Plugsurfing’s business, we moved on to possible future scenarios in the market. This was especially challenging in a fast-moving market with a lot of unknowns and possible futures.
Narrowing our strategic options from a dozen different alternatives down to three most viable options was a tedious task. Coventures helped us by facilitating the creation of alternatives and the analysis of each option's pros and cons. Coventures' team also provided us with tools that helped us make the difficult decisions, says Tatu Kulla, CEO of Plugsurfing.
Together we were able to form a strategic option for each of Plugsurfing's business segments and sketched some possible visions for the company in the future scenarios envisioned earlier. Talking through the potential options extensively allowed the leadership team to break through the tactical issues they've been trying to fix. As facilitators, our role was to help the leadership team see the options from new angles and ultimately move forward to a new viewpoint on the business.
Making strategic choices
At the beginning of phase two of the Strategy Sprint, the team had to make difficult decisions. Do we have a sufficient understanding of the strategic options? Can we move into making decisions, or do we need to refine the data?
We saw that the business segments had a lot of potential but wanted to select the most synergetic & profitable segments to focus on before moving forward.
We decided to continue, and during two workshops, the team created drafts of the vision, strategy, and implications of the strategy. Once we chose the ones we were going to go with, we added them to the first version of the communication and execution plan.
Preparing the strategy for execution
In the final phase, Plugsurfing's Leadership Team documented and finalized Plugsurfing's new strategy based on decisions made in the previous phase. An important goal for the last phase was to create documentation of the vision, strategy, implications, and an internally launch-ready strategic narrative ready for data-driven and lean strategy execution. We helped the team complete this challenging wrap-up phase in record time.
What will happen next
Soon after communicating the updated strategy to the entire company, one of the leadership team members accurately said: "Now that we have clarified our strategy, we've done some 10% of the work to be done, and the 90% is executing the strategy."
During the strategy sprint, we helped the leadership team prepare for strategy execution by facilitating the creation of decision-making structures and cadences. The leadership team can follow up on the strategy execution and knows where and when certain decisions have been made.
Continuous strategy validation and execution is based on understanding the strategic assumptions you've made and iteratively validating them, starting from the riskiest assumptions. That's exactly what the team at Plugsurfing is currently doing.
I’m happy we chose Coventures to help us update our strategy. Coventures’ team did excellent work not only in providing new perspectives and tools to work on strategy, but also in helping us use those tools and methods already during the strategy update process. Thanks to Coventures we are well prepared to execute on the chosen strategy and I feel that Plugsurfing’s Leadership Team and the entire organisation is motivated to continue our journey, says Tatu Kulla, CEO of Plugsurfing.