If You Want Your Business to Last, Slow Down — 3 Ways To Prepare Your Company For The Long Haul With persistence and luck, and by following these three strategies, your business can stay in the 25% of businesses that make it to 15 years in operation.

By Chris Savage

Key Takeaways

  • Entrepreneurs are conditioned to believe they need to chase opportunities to scale quickly.
  • You might feel like you're moving fast when furiously rowing alone, but see how much faster you can scale with the right people by your side.
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Only 25% of new businesses make it to 15 years or more.

My co-founder Brendan and I are lucky to be in that 25%. This year, our company, Wistia, turned 17. After nearly two decades in the game, we've learned that holding strong to certain principles and focusing on specific areas can set you up to stay in the game for the long haul.

Here are a few things we've learned.

1. Slow down to move faster

If your business is a car, your job as a founder is to decide which direction to steer and how fast to go. This means you need to know when to hit the gas, hit the brake, floor it, or slow down.

Many founders subscribe to the growth-at-all-cost mindset. I understand the allure; faster growth can lead to more significant impact and higher profits, at least in the short term.

In the early days of building Wistia, I, too, embraced the culture of "busy." I was in back-to-back meetings all day. I loved the dopamine hits of putting out fires, but I was in a frenzy. I was operating in survival mode. If I was going to keep at this entrepreneurship thing for the long haul, I had to stop moving so fast, so I:

  1. Wouldn't burnout and
  2. Could slow down and focus on the future.

It took a long time for me to accept that personally slowing down didn't mean the business had to shift into a lower gear.

We could get into a much higher gear, but that required learning how to delegate fully by finding other people who could take on some of the big day-to-day problems I was trying to tackle independently.

Once I did that, I could focus on those parts of the business where I could uniquely add value and make the most impact. A rule of thumb I've found helpful is this: If someone can do something 80% as well as you, delegate it. Spend your time only on those things you can uniquely do.

You might feel like you're moving fast when furiously rowing alone, but see how much faster you can scale with the right people by your side.

Related: Why Startup Founders Must Go Slow to Go Fast

2. Focus on quality and what resonates the most

Companies that put the majority of their focus on things they can uniquely do are companies that win.

Entrepreneurs are conditioned to believe they need to chase opportunities to scale quickly. If there's something to try, we try it to grow quickly. But the reality is, it's impossible to be the best when you're trying to do too much at once.

Prioritizing quantity removes the quality of a project or processes that are already working. Time spent bouncing from one thing to the next can waste valuable time and resources. So much time pulled among multiple initiatives can lead to stagnation without output or can create what I call "zombie projects," efforts that continue in the background without concluding. These drain resources from your team members.

By focusing on fewer initiatives — specifically those proven to work and impact the customer — teams can focus on the activities that create a flywheel effect and drive exponential growth.

Related: Don't Get Too Fancy in Your Marketing -- Authenticity Always Wins

3. Embrace failure and creativity

Teams that celebrate failure are teams that win in the long run. They see hitting a brick wall as feedback, not a block, then adjust and course-correct quickly to move in the right direction.

A team that has fully embraced failure as an engine for progress has the freedom to be creative without hesitation. To achieve this, you need to have guardrails and a system that will sustain failure so you can use it to your advantage.

Here's how we do it:

  1. Define an ideal customer and deeply understand them
  2. Create a clear and thoughtful strategy
  3. Stay focused
  4. Break strategy into concrete customer problems to solve and define ownership of those problems
  5. Set achievable goals in the short term and aspirational goals for the long term
  6. Prioritize the speed of shipping
  7. Agree that small failures are a sign you are shipping fast enough
  8. Constantly share learnings within teams and across the company
  9. Update understanding of customer needs and repeat the process

You'll go faster when teams are highly aligned and loosely coupled from the beginning because they work under the same structure and expectations. This also means that when you fail, all teams can readjust and keep pushing forward, even if roadmap timing shifts.

Everyone's growth story will look different, and as you figure things out, you'll encounter some messiness in between. Find what systems work for you, understand that some things that work might be counterintuitive, and remain curious about the secrets to longevity. With persistence and luck, you'll stay in that 25%.

Chris Savage

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

CEO and cofounder of Wistia

Chris Savage is the CEO and cofounder of Wistia. After graduating from Brown University in 2006, Chris and his co-founder, Brendan Schwartz, started Wistia in Brendan’s living room. Wistia has since grown into a multi-million dollar business with almost 200 employees and over 375,000 customers.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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