5 Reasons to Keep a Startup Mindset for the Long Haul

Working lean in startup mode should not end when your business has moved to the next stage in its lifecycle.

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By Sue Vestri


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When you think of General Electric, you think of an industry leader known for its size and longevity, not a startup. Despite holding the spot of the 13th largest company in the world, the Company has embraced a concept known as a "lean" approach.

The lean approach, according to its founder, Eric Ries, is focused on when to change direction, and when to persevere and grow a business with maximum acceleration. Startup businesses are often led with this lean approach to produce a top-quality product or service delivered at minimal cost and great client experiences.

Related: How to Grow Your Company Without Losing Your Culture

As a company navigates through the business lifecycle and evolves from a small startup to a more established organization, it often take on a new identity and structure. The leadership team changes, new layers of management are introduced and processes become well-defined and more structured. What was once simply a good idea has grown into a business with a purpose, mission and ability to meet a market demand.

Often, through this evolution, the company takes on a more "mature" operational approach to align with the structure and organization that is driving the growth and success of the business. All too often, this evolution also causes the organization to shed the startup mindset -- being lean, taking risks and thinking creatively.

Even a company as large as GE realizes the benefits to this approach, and in 2014 realized that thinking like an entrepreneur can lead to cultural, customer and corporate victories. Embracing a lean approach can help businesses regardless of stage or size.

Here are five reasons why thinking like a startup through the lifecycle of your business can have a positive impact on your organization

1. Remain focused on what got you here.

Evolving from the startup stage is a result of being able to successfully capitalize on a great idea and execute that concept well. Exploring new applications for your product or service, while attractive, can also be extremely detrimental. Focusing on the core of what got you to your successful market position, while continuing to strategically innovate, is critical to remaining there and not distracting your team and clients with chasing any opportunity that comes along.

Related: Scaling Your Company Without Sacrificing Your Culture of Innovation

2. Grow smart.

When demands for your product and/or service are ramping up, it is important to be strategic about where to invest in resources. Hiring more people to meet a need today might not be the best investment for tomorrow. Roles evolve, needs change and demand fluctuates. Startups invest in team members that are adaptable and can jump in to help wherever needed. This approach is helpful to keep in mind as businesses grow, roles evolve and adjust to meet the needs of the organization and its services. You want to continue to hire motivated people who are passionate about what you are doing, and often need specialists in certain areas.

3. Be consistent.

The "lean" startup mindset should be consistent across the leadership team, not just the CEO and/or president. When executives are not coordinated with their outlook and approach, teams can get frustrated quickly. A clear, consistent vision and leadership approach is critical to the success of the business and ensuring the culture remains intact. When a leadership team is on the same page on how the company is growing, where investments are valuable and the path for the future, there is a clear strategy and path for the business.

Related: A CFO's Perspective on Scaling Startup Growth

4. Walk the walk.

Don't let the "startup" mentality simply be a way of thinking. If there is a commitment to working lean and staying hungry like a startup does, this needs to come through the culture and actions of the business. A strong work ethic, commitment to client satisfaction and the ability to stop and take the time to celebrate milestones and key accomplishments is critical to supporting the startup culture. Our company's milestones may have changed -- from the first client to the 100th -- but each is a victory, and if we lose sight of the value that our client partners bring, the business will suffer. As the business grows and there is more confidence and trust in the team, it is critical that the attention to detail and execution is flawless -- continuing that white glove treatment as if it were the first client to use your product or service.

Related: How Your Culture Will Ensure You Keep Your Edge

5. Be accountable and look for areas to improve and evolve.

Take a regular check-in on how you're doing: Are you being too frugal, not taking enough risks or making a strong enough investment into your people or processes? Are you resisting new ideas or changes that will help the company scale? Understand where the holes in your organization are and develop strategies to address these gaps, for the short-term and long-term.

Working lean in startup mode should not end when your business has moved to the next stage in its lifecycle. Remaining focused on the client and delivering quality products or services has countless benefits, including strengthening the culture and commitment from the team.

Sue Vestri

CFO, Greenphire

Sue Vestri oversees accounting, business support, financial planning and analysis, auditing, tax and treasury, as well as investor relations. She has nearly three decades of financial leadership experience in SaaS-based technology organizations with significant operating scale.

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