It’s a brave move for entrepreneurs to move from any “comfortable” career path to start a start-up. Some of those with lot of hard work and luck move to the growth stage where there product / service / business model starts to get traction. Idea converts from idea or prototype to a real product / service. Some customers start paying for it. Investors may flock in with some small investments to keep the start-up going. Startup becomes started up. It’s a great milestone to hit as majority of start-ups never reach this stage.
But the going just gets tougher here. Live clients mean there is low / no room for error. Entrepreneur’s responsibility expands from team members and investors to clients as well. It’s very important to manage this phase well before the company achieves its objective, like to break even and become a self sustained business (there could be other objectives to sell out the company or product to large competitors or strategic investors). In order to survive this phase and manage the start-up well, entrepreneurs should chose to focus on,
1. Sales Growth – As long as clients are buying, it’s possible to fix everything else. The start-up may not survive if sales don’t grow. The sales could come from existing clients and / or new clients. There should be lot of focus on constant client dialogues, new client origination & deepening existing client relationships. This leads to better product feedback, expansion of business model and ideas for additional business opportunities.
2. Retaining and motivating the team – Hiring / Upgrading/ Retaining the best team is most important in delivering to clients which could open doors for further sales. Sales growth cannot happen without a good team backing up the client delivery and driving it forward.
3. Plan the product / service enhancements / pivots – Its harder to continue sales with stagnant product for a long time. Entrepreneur needs to evolve with changing market conditions, client requirements and with his own innovative ideas / vision for the future. Otherwise competition will catch up.
4. Delegate – given the focus on growth, you will need to delegate certain functions that you were initially doing (in early days, its normal that entrepreneurs do it all). Ensure that less important functions are getting delegated and they somehow do work. and focus back on sales / growth.
5. Others – Various other things like HR, Admin, Accounts, Operations etc. need to be taken care of as usual depending upon the business type. PR, media coverage, big partnerships can be very useful in building credibility as well as getting reverse inquiry clients.
There is not shortcut to success. The entrepreneur’s life in this stage would be harder and challenging, but certainly exciting.