By Charlie Carpenter
Startups are designed for growth, and their founders are accustomed to the pressure of creating a venture from scratch. That said, there are plenty of challenges to deal with when your business is scaling quickly. All of a sudden, cracks will appear that you never thought existed, just at the time when stakes are at their highest. This can be difficult.
You will experience issues with systems, processes, people, cash flow, and customer support. You will need to nail issues as they arise across various aspects of your business. I have created these six essential pieces of advice, devised from years of experience in the startup growth world.
1. Maintain Important Relationships
Despite the pressures of fast growth, you need to focus on the relationships that matter. If you let key relationships drift, your hard work will be meaningless in the long-term.
Customers cannot be sidelined as a result of your startup’s scaling process. Use your growth as an excuse to learn more about customers. Involve them in key decisions, and provide exclusive access and incentives to improve retention. Stay loyal, and build on your foundations.
You must also focus on internal relationships within the team. Growth will put pressure on the workforce, and it’s the leadership’s responsibility to pull everyone together at the hardest times.
2. Don’t Overcomplicate Things
Always focus on the most important aspect of your business: continuing to deliver value to customers. This is what will sustain success for the long-term.
As you grow, it will be tempting to add complexity to the mix. In terms of product or service, you might get sidetracked into unnecessary features as a result of customer feedback. In terms of operations, you might add multiple layers of red tape or complex systems.
It’s essential to keep things as simple as possible, at all times.
3. Don’t Ignore the Data
As a startup leader, you already know that numbers are paramount. In the context of growing a business, numbers highlight key areas that need your attention. This isn’t just about revenue.
Seek data expertise to track the impact of growth. For internal operations, the smart use of data will show team productivity, capacity, and output. In terms of customer-facing issues, data analysis will show trends for onboarding, conversion, and retention. These numbers matter.
Data will inform your decisions, and will provide the backbone for innovation.
4. Look for Mentors
The best business owners are humble ones. Everybody needs a bit of help sometimes, and this is especially true at difficult points of the startup journey. An external objective viewpoint will help you get true perspective, and you’ll learn from the experience of others.
A mentor often won’t ask for financial compensation. In many cases, it is a mutually beneficial arrangement, or even a friendship. Sometimes a service swap works, and sometimes there will be more than one mentor providing insights at different stages. You can also consider working with a business coach from the start of your journey.
5. Focus on Scalable Management
The management of internal teams and tasks becomes more complex as the business grows. At the earliest opportunity, focus on building a scalable management framework. This includes the use of robust business technology, but also the team hierarchy structure.
For startups with fast growth on the radar, scalability is absolutely critical. This needs an agile approach, and a certain amount of foresight. Growing pains are inevitable, but you can minimize their impact with scalable management.
6. Be Brutal, Sometimes
In some cases, existing customers can slow the progression of your wider business. This happens when you grow quickly in one area, whilst another area presents an inefficient time-drain. This can be a costly imbalance.
A startup leadership team needs to be brutal with the product and its customers. Double down on the areas that drive the most revenue, and drop the offering that costs resources. However, don’t leave customers in the lurch — always provide a helpful alternative solution, or a reasonable timescale for upgrading their package.
Fast growth is a desirable scenario for every serious startup founder. However, it’s not always easy to cope with a sudden increase in customers. Not only does your business infrastructure need to manage, but your mindset needs to be right.
You should be adding value with your product or service, and focusing on relationships. Keep things simple and consistent, and don’t ignore the numbers when they matter most. With the right approach, the pressures of fast growth won’t hinder your meteoric rise.