Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The formative years of a startup company are like an aspiring sports rookie about to go pro. All of their potential is still ahead of them, and they have the chance to be the greatest of all time.
Yet in a short period of time, they are either going to be known as “One of the Greats” or just another 3rd string bench warmer that never made a name for themselves.

So how do you keep your startup on an all-star track without veering into mediocrity?

You keep swinging for the fences.

The beauty of a startup is the amount of potential and energy that it launches with. Over time, that potential may either be realized or it slows down as the enthusiasm wanes. The challenge is to maintain that potential energy as you grow your company, and to not let go of the aggressive attitude that you had when you launched.

Maintain Trajectory

One of a startup’s strongest assets is its’ potential to do something great. When you read about popular companies like YouTube being sold for $1.6 billion in less than two years of operation, it’s not because they are making such huge financial returns (they weren’t even profitable). It’s because they have the potential to be so valuable in the marketplace.
Once that potential wears off, the startup loses its luster very quickly.

Your challenge is to maintain that trajectory of growth and potential opportunity. Whatever your key metrics, whether they are your sales numbers or visitors to your Web site, you cannot let their growth slip.

Every day, week, month, quarter and year needs to show exceptional growth in order to maintain that momentum. As soon as you get complacent about growth, you’ve already lost.
One way to help maintain consistent growth is to boil down your growth targets into much smaller increments. For example, instead of just concentrating on quarterly sales numbers, you could concentrate on surpassing daily or weekly sales targets, and attack them vigorously.
Obviously those little victories add up to the larger victory at the end of a month or quarter. More importantly, they allow you to keep a very real handle on your day-to-day trajectory, which makes them much easier to manage and adjust.

Keep it Fresh

Startups get the benefit of a fresh team to work with. Since the company has never existed before, everyone is there for the first time and they are filled with enthusiasm and promise.
Over time though, the long days and nights tend to drain people. When the team gets worn out, the whole company loses steam. It’s time to get some fresh legs in the game.
This doesn’t necessarily mean replacing the people within the team, it may simply mean reallocating them to new projects or letting them rest in some maintenance of existing projects.

There tends to be two camps of employees – those that like to create from chaos, and those that like the maintain order from chaos. Both are invaluable, and need to be allocated accordingly.

By putting your creators of chaos on new projects, you keep their minds fresh and the juices flowing. By putting your managers on existing projects, you keep them from getting burnt out on the chaos of the unknown. It keeps everyone fresh and in-turn keeps the startup growing.

Keep Lofty Goals

Over time your goals will likely change. Initially the goal may be simply to bring in enough cash so that you can pay yourself and the people around you. Over time, though, your goals should increase substantially.

Constantly chasing goals is what keeps a startup at the top of its game. Companies start to gather mold when they hit their initial goals or milestones and don’t get recharged for bigger goals. This often happens right after your first product launch or a big sale.

Everything leading up to that moment kept your team intensely focused and kept the drive alive. Once that moment happened though, people assumed that the job was pretty much done and they could focus on that achievement.

While it’s important to recognize your achievements, it’s even more important to immediately reset your goals for even bigger targets to maintain your momentum.

After that big sale or product launch, gather your team together and set much larger goals to rally around. Use the momentum of your achievements to get your team confident about achieving your next goal even faster.

Swing for the Fences

Maintaining a successful startup on a rocket ship growth plan isn’t a single sprint, it’s a marathon of well-calculated milestones.

As soon as you stop trying to make the big plays and push the company as far as you go, you lose the momentum you once had, and by way of that, you lose your potential.
If you’re not going to swing big, you’re not going to win big.

( excerpts from Wil Schroter’s blog – gobignetwork.com)

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