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When launching a company, the desire to grow quickly can be overwhelming, but successfully moving a company to the next level means carefully stabilizing a business model as well as proving viability. Without attention to these necessary details, along with finances, intelligent hiring and other operational needs, you run the risk of becoming one of the 50% of startups that fail by their fourth year. Focusing on being intentional in scaling a startup will help ensure that you tackling all these tasks appropriately, which then allows you to laser-focus on product development and other elementals.
But what does it mean to be “intentional” in this process?
Be honest about challenges
Every new business faces hurdles, from development of an initial idea, to scaling, to hitting growth goals, but it can be easy for budding entrepreneurs to resist constructive criticism while addressing them — to believe they are wunderkinds who simply don’t face what others do. Some may feel their startup will grow easily and quickly simply because their idea is so good, because they have a strong online following and/or believe the world needs their service immediately. Learning the art of being humble… to absorb and apply constructive criticism or lessons from missteps — whether in finances, supply, operational process or hiring — can help you avoid mistakes.
Even if your idea is solid and your plan is ironclad, change is a given, and embracing it will allow you to thrive. This last year we have seen how unforeseen events like a pandemic can foster new technological advances along with new business challenges. Successfully scaling a startup involves curating technology to fit your mission, organizational makeup and end goals, so don’t run from change, even at the beginning of your startup journey. Those who accept its inevitability also learn to weave it into the fabric of business, and will be more able to weather storms to come.
Paying close attention to those you engage with, and how you are engaging with them, helps a startup tap into who their customers are and how they relate to a company, but it’s a process that takes time. This brand of communication awareness also applies to employees; growing a business too quickly can result in poor morale, or at least a loss of staff focus. Try to embrace serenity, simplicity and self-care, in yourself and your staff, and keep your ears open at all times.
A brand of engagement to be wary of, meanwhile, is excessive comparison to other startups in your niche. It can be tough to turn off this “comparison radar”, to ignore what your competitors may be doing to scale their businesses, but to succeed in your first year and beyond, emphasize being authentic from the get-go, not an iteration of someone else. The simple truth is that trying to replicate what another company may be doing virtually never results in long-term success, and consumers and social media followers can spot a copycat from a mile away. Make engagement personal to you and your company, and growth will follow.
Know your audience
A winning brand of entrepreneurial intentionality also comes from knowing an audience and what they want to hear from you. What problem is your business solving? How are you solving it? Why does anyone want your solution, and why do they want to pay for it? Where are these people who want what you’re selling, and how do you reach them? Without knowing how to answer these questions, scaling will be difficult — akin to just throwing things at the wall hoping something sticks. Scaling will happen more fluidly if you intentionally consider who is following your startup, why, and how to best serve them.
Staff strategically, and with an eye for innovation
It’s vital to hire for productive capabilities, to be sure, but also for temperament. Pay close attention, for example, to employees’ appetite for groundbreaking. Do they bring ideas to the table or slink away to the fringes? Openly communicate regularly with staff about mission and goals. Keep them abreast of changes, triumphs and even losses, so they are invested in scaling the business as much as you. Finally, onboard intentionally, making sure to bring on people who align with what you are trying to accomplish. And the obverse also applies: scaling can mean losing people not aligned with your vision. And by all means, hire smart rather than fast.