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6 Steps All Startups Must Take to Sustain Business Growth

Growth trajectories may look different depending on the industry, but there are some steps that all startups can take to stay on the path of sustainable growth.

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Running a successful startup is a constant challenge. While many entrepreneurs thrive in this environment, it can be hard to weather the offbeat and unexpected curve balls that the industry throws your way.

Learning to roll with unpredictability is an excellent way to keep your business afloat, but it takes more than willpower and flexibility to be able to truly sustain growth in any market. Sometimes, the next necessary steps are obvious. Sometimes, however, they aren't. 

Growth trajectories may look different depending on the industry, but there are some steps that all startups can take to stay on the path of sustainable growth.

Take full advantage of free and inexpensive advertising opportunities

A key mistake that startups make is thinking that they can put marketing aside for later. Advertising, however, is a critical component of any successful growth strategy, especially in the early days.

Related: 9 Free Advertising Solutions

While marketing may feel tedious and like a waste of resources, it can be the difference between sustained growth and total failure. Low-budget options for effective marketing include social media sharing, influencer partnerships, content marketing and mobile app development. Remember that you don’t have to drop hundreds of thousands on celebrity endorsements right away. Start by recruiting notable influencers first and work your way up.

Before you spend any money on advertising, get to know your target audience deeply. Once you know who and what you’re targeting, you can prioritize marketing tasks so that your customers get the maximum benefit. Don’t be afraid to use creative marketing tactics, especially in the beginning! They can garner a lot of attention.

Keep investing in top talent

Everyone knows that acquiring top talent is vital for ongoing success, but this is another step that founders often hesitate to take. Resources are limited, so it's common to think that it's better to hire fewer employees and take on more tasks yourself. However, delegation is crucial for growth. If you don’t hire a team you can trust with delegated tasks, then you won’t have enough time or resources to focus on scaling your brand. 

Related: The importance of recruiting in early-stage startups

Founders should also immediately look for the best possible candidates to cover hard skills they don’t have. If you understand how to recruit based on “product-market fit,” investors will be more willing to take a risk on your company.

Think of hiring as a long-term investment. The upfront cost might be a little higher, but the rewards will be much greater. Scouting the best possible talent from the beginning ensures a steady upward trajectory. Additionally, putting a good employee retention plan in place can help you keep that valuable talent once you've secured it.

Stay up-to-date with current technology trends

It's a no-brainer that technology is essential for growth and success. Still, a surprising number of startups don't put enough stock in the importance of keeping up with constantly changing technology trends. 

One recent study showed that 80 percent of new businesses are not taking full advantage of available technologies. For example, startups can utilize new platforms like Zapier to integrate and automate their flows for a more efficient workday.

Trends like artificial intelligence, automation, and mobile app development are no longer just icing on the cake for customers, especially in the wake of the global crisis. Consumers expect things like personalized experiences and convenient mobile apps as an everyday part of their interactions with your brand. 

To keep growing and thriving, startups must continue to invest in new and beneficial technologies. In some cases, this means that the best plan is outsourcing some of your processes. For other companies, this means putting more value in low-code development interfaces and test case management tools like Qase.io. 

Salesforce reports that 68 percent of marketing heads say their brands only stay competitive and relevant because of their intense focus on customer experience tech. 

Know when it's time to pivot

Did you know that 42 percent of startups fail because they misread market demand? Researching and developing theoretical knowledge in your chosen field can be a far cry from actually jumping in and getting first hand experience. The numbers show that issues like misreading the market or a lack of competitive offerings are relatively common in startups, but they don’t have to be a death sentence. 

Some of the most outstanding startups changed course and became household names because they knew that the only path to growth was to pivot. "Pivot" is a word that's often whispered fearfully by entrepreneurs because it's a terrifying prospect to most. Not only can it feel like a blow to the ego, but many view it as admitting defeat or failure. 

Related: Why Founders Should Always View Pivots as Opportunities

Pivot doesn't have to be a negative thing, especially in the context of long-term growth. Keeping the option to pivot when necessary on the table at all times might just be the key to achieving long-term growth instead of shuttering your business and starting over. 

Remember that risk might be exactly what you need

All entrepreneurs are familiar with risk. After all, that's the core of starting your own business. In fact, 74 percent of small and medium business owners say they're willing to take big risks in the name of possible success. However, some founders can become risk-averse over time. This is especially true if their companies are stable and faring well. 

In order to sustain growth, founders can't afford to lose their ability to take risks, both inside the company and outside. One example of this is ensuring that you optimize upside finances rather than focusing on cost. This feels risky because the upside gains are uncertain, but it should be treated like just another form of investment. 

Remember that you didn't get where you are today by playing it safe. Chances are good that you won't get where you want to go by playing it safe, either. 

Growth hacking doesn't have to be hard

The strategies outlined in this article are all excellent starting points for getting yourself in the right frame of mind when it comes to sustaining meaningful growth. The most important thing that founders can do is lay the proper foundation of their business architecture from the start and work to make sure everything builds up from there.  

The innovation, passion, and entrepreneurial spirit that drove the creation of your startup should hold an important place in your overall growth strategy. As long as you can keep those traits alive, taking these steps will be easier than you think. 

Vitaly Alexandrov

Written By

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Vitaly Alexandrov is a serial entrepreneur and the founder and CEO at Food Rocket, a startup that provides 15-minute grocery delivery. He previously founded award-winning CRM agency Out of Cloud and is the author of the best-selling book "Email Marketing Strategy."