Close more deals, hire more staff, earn more profits. This is the mantra that propels the 10% of entrepreneurial pursuits into success stories. But when you’re strapped for cash to start with, the idea of making it big seems like a dream come true rather than an obstacle you should be preparing for.
That’s where you’re wrong.
Long before the money reels in, the life of an entrepreneur is defined by gruelling hours and sleepless nights. Instead of cash, your efforts are fuelled by passion for an idea. The romance of living your personal dream makes the sauceless pasta dinners bearable, and the 90% chance that you’ll fail seem like a worthwhile risk.
Not to sound grim, but your odds are already far from great. What makes it worse is that, in reality, the numbers are even less favorable. Lulled by the relief of finally turning a profit, many fresh start-ups that finally take off fall into the trap of being unprepared for success. The main reason: they never truly expected it to happen.
Ehm, My Business is Far From Being a Rising Star
Astronomical growth; the prophecy for future stardom in the eyes of the investors, the media, your target audience, your mom, and the list goes on. You’re probably shaking your head and wondering what this has to do with your business that might barely break even on the best of months.
It’s this entrepreneurial “realism” that keeps you from preparing for the best case scenario, and makes you vulnerable when the magic moment finally arrives.
Managing expectations is important, but don’t become the unsuspecting lottery winner that blows it all and then some on Yeezys in a euphoric state of bliss. Adopt a sense of realistic optimism, and learn the lessons of past failures who missed their shot when they had the chance.
Lesson #1: Don’t Let the Big Bucks Bewitch You
More money more problems, right?
In the prophetic words of Notorious BIG, the more revenue you reel in, the more pressure there is on spending it. This is where a lot of young start-ups go wrong. After starving for any kind of financial validation for years, the moment the books start turning green, they are ready to spend big bucks on fancy offices and senseless investments.
Naturally, the first wave of popularity is not enough to base long term financial decisions on. Make sure you have a contingency plan before the cash flow starts pouring in, or you’ll end up buying a cow farm to boost your lemonade business because it seemed like the “big business” thing to do.
Lesson #2: Use Tools that Can Grow With You
Pen and paper may be enough to keep track of sales and expenses on a local lemonade stand, but as soon as you sign a nationwide deal with Tesco you’re screwed. The secret isn’t spending a fortune on fancy tools and software in the hopes that one day the investment will be worthwhile.
Your business model is always changing and, ideally, designed to be lean. Your tools need to match that description.
Processes like managing and optimizing your sales pipeline can change drastically as you scale up. Switching tools at the cusp of growth is tricky, which is why agile tools like Pipedrive for CRM make a whole lot of difference to your company.
Pipedrive is designed to help young sales teams spend less time on selling, and more time on actually closing deals. The interface makes it simple to use, you can easily get data in and out of the system and you can connect Pipedrive to some of your favourite tools, like Zapier and Mailchimp.
Lesson #3: Don’t Make Promises You Can’t Keep
Kickstarter is great, but is also the virtual land of broken promises. One notorious case is that of ZANO, the “autonomous drone” producers who made the mistake of saying yes to anyone with enough cash. The overwhelming demand clogged their supply chain, and resulted in so many delays and quality issues that news of their grand failure even made it to mainstream news.
The problem: they couldn’t say no.
You want to say yes to all new clients, but being able to admit your own limits will save you a lot of heartache. More customers means more diverse needs, and while making as many sales as you can seems great now, do you really want to invite everyone to your profit party?
Getting the audience may seem like the tough part at the start, but keeping existing ones happy is the key to growth that lasts. Right now you want to throw an epic launch that is as popular as possible. But here’s the catch; not everyone likes the same music or the same food, and if you invest all your time trying to please everyone, you’ll lose sight of the loyal attendees who would have come with or without the extra frills.
When it comes to just how important this is, sales mogul and entrepreneur Max Altschuler puts it best:
“[Loyal customers are] one of your best ways to get new customers. So if you have happy existing customers, they’re going to tell people about you. They’re going to scream it from the rooftops.”
I’m Ready to Grow.. Now What?
Like most entrepreneurs, you’re probably struggling to achieve the elusive growth stage we’ve been covering so casually. Fortunately enough, the mystery of virality has transformed into a science that, when understood, can generate the hype you need without the corporate budget. With the right know-how, achieving start-up stardom is a controllable outcome that doesn’t rely on plain luck (although it does help).
Listen in on expert tips from Laurence Bret (Pipedrive) and Ben Grohl (Atomico), who will share their insights from working at Facebook, LinkedIn and Google at TechDay London 2017. They will go through the basics of how growth marketing and engineering work, and share tips that can help you develop a low budget growth campaign that’s engineered for success.