Getting Through the Growth Phase
It’s a clichéd concept, but it’s true. Great things have small beginnings. It’s no less applicable to companies than anything else. Each day a great idea gives root to a brilliant business, and every once in a while, something comes along that is so perfect in its simplicity, so extraordinary in its reach, that it goes on to be valued in the hundreds of millions (and in some cases, even billions) of dollars.
Although many of us accept the limited potential impact of our business concepts, we still see their futures as bright, their potential as great, their utility as universal. But between the first brainwave and the multi-million dollar IPO, there’s a lot of hard graft, there’s a complicated, often uncharted growth plan, and a colossal upscaling of resources.
So what drives us through those vast expanses between the conception of a business plan and the execution of an exit strategy? What can we do to keep the blood pumping on those challenging, dull, and outright impossible days? We’ve come up with a few tips, gleaned from personal experience, to keep you on the straight and narrow during the growth phase of your business.
Take on people you like, not people like you
Nothing is worse than feeling like an outsider at your own company. The rigours of management will take their toll on your outlook, and often you’ll find that there is an inevitable distance drawn between yourself and your staff. But there are ways to limit the fallout of delegation, to keep corporate culture conducive to great results, and the buck stops with you.
When your business leaves the kitchen table for the first time, you have to identify the people you need on board to support your development. It sounds simple, but there’s more to a business than the sum of its parts – qualifications are just part of the puzzle. Take on people you like, you don’t need to understand everything about them, and it’s better if they’re not carbon copies of yourself, but it’s important to like them if you’re trusting them with your business.
It’s more than simple office politics. Your company will flourish or fall by your ability to accept its flaws and adapt – so when your staff voice their valid opinions, it’ll help to soften the blow if you like the messenger. All too often, justified perspectives are dismissed because the bearer of bad news isn’t someone else. Don’t let people be the problem.
Be aspirational, but practical, with targets
You’re shooting for the moon, of course. But think practically. You can get there one of two ways, and which works for you depends on your business. The slingshot, rocket-boost approach taken by big brands isn’t always right, even if you’re competing with Google, you’re not trying to be Google. The slowly, slowly method might be best for your company… then again, maybe not. Understand your limitations as a business and play to your strengths to build progress healthily.
This applies to all elements of your business, from funding down to sales targets – set your sights justifiably high, but be realistic. Not only can forced growth be unhealthy for your relationship with customers (think of all the digital startups with 5,000,000 registered, but inactive, users), it can also cause stress on a logistic level. Is your business ready to handle exponential growth? What do need in place to deal with it?
Consider the implications for staff members. If you tell your UI designer he has two weeks to boost the sales of a complementary product by 100 percent, do you think they’ll take their time to design a game-changing new interface, or take the shortcut through dark UI. That sort of practice has knock-on effects for your customers and their trust for your business. Google said it: “Don’t be evil”.
Remember why you started, and where you’re going
On those days when the work seems to drag on and on, when you just can’t get it all done, and nothing seems to go your way, it may well be tempting to throw in the towel – but remember why you’re doing this. Everyone has different reasons, it could be as simple as early retirement on a yacht, or as aspirational as changing the lives of your users for the better. There’s no right or wrong answer, as long as it gets you out of bed in the morning.
Take a trip back to the days before your business. Do you really want to go back to that? The answer is almost always no. Again, there are lots of reasons why you started a business… it wasn’t easy and it wasn’t a simple choice to take the plunge. Remember the reasons. Write them down, and you’ll be amazed at the change it makes to your outlook on the day.
Stay grounded by the past, but stay aware of the present, with an eye on the future. Think about the wider-reaching implications of your business. How much easier have you made the lives of your customers? How many people have you provided with a job? Where will your company be next year? What about five years from now?
Understand that survival is a growth strategy
All businesses face challenges – what would life be without them? Make sure you understand that no matter how hard the next few weeks or months may be, you’ve got to be in the race to win it. Your startup won’t always go from strength-to-strength. Whether it’s litigation, competition, or dwindling use that threatens your business, the only way to see the other side is to weather the storm.
Fight tooth and nail. It’s another cliché, but when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Use your positive energy – the same energy that started your business – to get through it. In the end you’ll be rewarded for your efforts – sometimes in ways you could never have imagined. Your business is your baby, competition is healthy… use it to your advantage.
Tomorrow is a new day, and you can never tell what awaits you. Stay in business this week, make tough decisions, cut expenditure, let people go, but keep going. You’d be amazed how many businesses become an overnight success after years of hard graft. That big contract, that angel investor, that acquisition offer might be just around the corner.
We understand that running a business is never easy. There are big wins and hard falls, but it’s the way you react that makes the difference. Our investment comes with mentoring by some of the best in enterprise, so no matter what you’re going through, you know we’ve been through it too – and come out on top! To get backing from a new breed of venture fund, apply for funding here.