Run Like a Startup
The lighting-fast growth of successful startups is staggering. WhatsApp, Instagram, and MailChimp all shot up from a handful of employees to multimillion-dollar behemoths within a blink-and-you-missed-it period of time. So what’s their secret? Sure, they all had groundbreaking ideas, but a good product is just the start of building a business. Making that product a household name -- and not losing your shirt in the process -- is where the real work comes in.
Let’s explore a few startup concepts that can shake up your brand.
Move Fast and Break Things
Full disclosure: I worked at LivingSocial when the daily deals company was fresh off the heels of a $6 billion valuation. It was a wild ride that at times felt like a roller-coaster flying off the tracks. But that didn’t phase the business’s leadership team. Their mantra was to test new concepts at a rapid pace and ditch them just as quickly. They avoided requiring extensive research for new products because it led to layers of stakeholder approval and, ultimately, watered down creativity. The end result of this approach was LOTS of failed ideas and few extremely successful ones. The risk was high but the reward was greater -- and many lessons were learned along the way.
When business is booming, it’s easy to spring for a new office, expanded staff, and exorbitant perks. But when times are tough, chances are you’ll regret it. Launch your business by using today’s technology to have close to zero overhead for business operations. Cloud-based collaboration tools like Slack (another successful startup!) and Skype make it easy for teams to work remotely across time zones. And that cool office? Your clients don’t care if you have free snacks and an in-office dog park. Bottom line: Do what you can with what you have until it’s organic and essential to grow.
Surprise and Delight
This goes for your staff and customers. In a world that’s filled with ways to avoid meaningful interaction, step back from the screen and take time to appreciate the people who make your business possible. Consider treating staff to lunch, sending a client a handwritten thank-you card, or simply calling someone on their birthday. It’s these little gestures that make your team invested in doing good work and your customers loyal. This dedication to honoring those around you, regardless of seniority or investment, becomes even more essential as your business grows.
You know what stifles creativity? Boundaries and egos -- both of which thrive when your staff is segmented and told to “stay in their lane.” There’s a fine line between respecting expertise and eliminating collaboration. At the agency level, a project manager may have the magic idea needed to jumpstart a new campaign, while a designer could offer a fresh perspective on billing practices. Growth and success are not formed on an island, so don’t make your team feel like they’re on one. Open up the floor for input from all levels of staff and really listen - don’t just listen to respond. You never know when the next big idea is right under your nose.
I know it’s tough … but just do it. Say no to toxic employees, unnecessary expenses, and working with customers who bring negativity to your business. In the early days of building your company, this is one of the hardest pieces of advice to heed. After all, a big check is hard to turn down when you’re trying to make payroll or invest in a new product. But months or years down the road, when that initial cash infusion is long gone, the negative relationship will still be there. Saying no in the short-term will lead to lots of fun yeses in the long run.