You’ve been fantasizing about the day your startup would be able to stand on its own two feet, and it’s finally here. You’ve developed a product, found a market fit and begun to turn a profit.
Just as with raising a child, your business will begin to take on a life of its own. A lot can happen between the ideation and the growth phases of a business and how a company or product turns out isn’t always what you imagined.
As your business changes as it matures, you’ll need to “parent” it through the ups and downs.
To parent a business through its growth, you must:
1. Set short- and long-term goals. If you expect to hit specific milestones by a certain date, work backward from there to figure out what you need to do to achieve your long-term goals. Then, prioritize the most important goals. Occasionally, you’ll outgrow your plan and need to create a new one. That’s OK as long as you’re always planning for the future.
2. Understand the cost structure of your business. Review your financials on a regular basis to make sure your business is healthy. What are the variable costs? What are the fixed costs? Do you have certain spending patterns? Most importantly, is your business model sustainable?
3. Identify the impact of your products or services. Look at your startup and ask yourself whether you’re making things easier for your users. Sit down and talk to them about how they interact with your products or services, and use that feedback to continually improve the customer experience. Compare your impact on users against what your competitors are doing. What can you do to make your offering even more valuable in the long term?
4. Delegate. Startup founders wear lots of hats in the beginning, but as the business grows, you’ll need to bring on employees with specialized talents and relinquish control over the tasks you hired them to do.
5. Be realistic. Think logically about where your startup is headed. Where do you want to be in six months? What about a year? Five years? If your company is headed in a different direction than you originally intended, you’ll need to adapt to your business -- not the other way around.
6. Prepare for growth. While growth doesn’t happen overnight, you must prepare for it ahead of time. Develop an organizational structure for your business, identify the types of people you need to hire within this structure, and figure out who will be in charge of what.
Much like children, startups develop their own personalities, goals and ideas. As your business begins to tell you where it needs to go, you’ll find yourself becoming something of a bystander -- more of a guide than a leader. And that’s what all good parents should hope for.