There’s no shortage of anecdotes describing the potential pitfalls in the transition stage from a lean startup to a growing small business.
Navigating this transition takes a completely different mindset and skill set than was required to launch the startup. Where the major challenge had previously been to create a viable product or service, the focus now needs to shift to how to scale up the business—and to do so, you’ll need to grow beyond the skeleton team that started it. You’ll need to be able to present a holistic vision of your company to new team members, investors (be it venture capital, government grants, or small business loans), and a myriad of other stakeholders. You’ll need to clearly tell them both what your plan is for growth from a financial standpoint, and be able to articulate a vision for the brand that will inspire them.
Starting with the operational requirements, any investor is going to need to know what your plan is for growing your business’ revenue. It needs to be concrete: tell them the return on the dollars spent when acquiring a customer, give them projections based on averages of similar companies in your industry (think beyond the “unicorns” like Uber). You need to be able to show them that you’ve crunched the numbers and that there’s a strong case for a return on investment for them.
Regardless of whether the end goal is to be acquired by the likes of Facebook or Google, or to become a self-sustaining publicly traded company, you’ll need to tell a compelling story about your brand. For this, you’ll need to be able to take a step back. As an entrepreneur, you’ll likely need to overcome any bias or tunnel vision you may have. You’ll need to uncover the assumptions you have, and honestly answer the following questions:
- What does my brand exist for and where is it going?
- Who does my brand serve?
- Why should people choose my brand?
- What motivates people to purchase?
When working with startups at Zync, we find it useful to break questions like these into the framework of “brand intent”, “brand connections”, and “brand experience”. Only when you can answer these questions can you hope to avoid three of the top ten leading management mistakes: “going into business for the wrong reasons”, “lack of market awareness”, and “lack of a clear focus”.
By understanding why your brand exists in relation to the market and who it matters to, you can uncover the true unique selling proposition that will resonate with customers and investors alike. To build a sustainable startup that will lead to stable company growth, you need a clear vision and direction built on what you know about the market, and what you truly know about yourself.