Sustainable, healthy growth is hard to achieve. It’s a delicate balancing act between chasing shiny innovation and sales whilst preserving your existing USP (unique selling proposition) and company culture. In a sea of eager startups, many will sink as they try to scale – demand vs. supply issues, knee jerk decisions, and communication breakdowns can all put a stop to any well-intentioned efforts.
So, as your business grows and you’re finally moving towards financial stability and a lifestyle you love, how do you maintain those agile startup roots and close-knit team spirit?
All the brand giants of the world have stayed true to their original mission. TED: Spread ideas. IKEA: To create a better everyday life for the many people. Tesla: To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy. An enduring mission is what makes a brand so well known and loved. When consumers know what a company represents and is ultimately trying to achieve, it helps them make fast purchasing decisions when the need arises. Remember why you got into this work in the first place – what problem does your product or service solve?
You know those values and attributes that you always hired on, right back at the beginning? They’re just as important now and for moving forward into the future. Clarify and document your criteria then use this information for recruitment, hiring, and on-boarding. Attract and induct the right people – those who will wholeheartedly carry your vision and mission forward as the company scales. Skills are important, of course, but they can be taught. Attitudes, values, and outlook often can’t.
As your business grows, it can be tempting to take a lot more time out of the office and keep the day-to-day operations running at much further than arm’s length. Whilst it’s great to be able to have more flexibility (and an important example to set for your staff), it’s critical to maintain an active role in the business. No one will have the same level of passion as you. No one will care quite as much either. Maintain a collaborative culture by keeping your door open and focus on the mantra of “continuous improvement” to ensure a constantly evolving, customer-centric approach which is set as an example from the top.
It’s a boring and tedious task, but logging processes saves so much time in the long run and frees team members up from having to endlessly train new staff. It also means that if someone’s on holiday or unexpectantly sick, another employee can use the relevant process documents to get the job done. You won’t end up relying on “John from Operations” who isn’t in one day and, unfortunately, is the only person who truly understands the inner workings of every system, password, and protocol. Document all of your instructions, folder locations, helpful links, training videos, images, company jargon, and contact details. That way, you’ll never be stuck up the river without a paddle!
Sometimes, when you’re caught up in the excitement of scaling, it can be difficult to learn to slow down, think a while longer, and rein it in. Yes, you’re a successful go-getter but balancing this energy with quiet consideration and patience is what sorts the wheat from the chaff when it comes to sustainable entrepreneurship. Reach out to mentors, reflect on decisions, avoid getting “shiny object syndrome” (not every opportunity is a good one!), and meditate more when life throws you a less than pleasant curveball.
Soon, gone will be the days where you could shout across the office when you needed to communicate. As departments give birth to extra departments, you’ll find that teams find it harder to stay connected with one another. It’s critical to set company-wide objectives as well as departmental ones, so that everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet. It’s also important to encourage goal progress updates, so that teams stay accountable and don’t lose track of the common goal.
It will only get harder to maintain quality when your business operations scale. That’s why it’s vital to experiment, get feedback on, and tweak your product or service repeatedly whilst the numbers aren’t too hard to deliver on. Prioritize quality and iron out the creases now – you’ll thank yourself later.
It doesn’t matter if it’s scalable if it [your product or service] isn’t a great market fit. In fact, it’s wise to do things that don’t scale early on. That way, you can use the feedback to find the issues, then to go back to the drawing board – following the learning curve to perfecting your product.Tony Robbins
Marketing can often be overlooked by startup companies as they tend to prioritize sales and day-to-day operations. However, a robust marketing strategy is what will bring in a consistent stream of hot leads for your sales team to convert as you grow. And it doesn’t need to be expensive. Content marketing provides compounding results over time, so start early and stay consistent to reap the rewards. Branding also becomes more important as you grow and look to further cement your USP in the market. Make sure you’ve made space on the budgeting spreadsheet!
So, as you can see, there’s an awful lot you can do to preserve the integrity of your scrappy, heart-driven startup roots. And, as with anything in life – it’s all about balance. Balance your fire with your groundedness. Balance flexibility with stability. Balance “newness” and innovation with the classic stuff from “the good old days”.
In the end, it’s all about chasing your dreams while still remembering where you came from. You’ve got this!