You probably have heard this life-coaching statement that by giving you are getting more. This simple mechanism works pretty well in Visuality. By serving our clients, who are on different development stages, we have gathered more knowledge about business and its specifics than by reading any business book. The purpose of this article is to introduce you to our further research on the challenges mature startups face and solutions that could improve their performance in a long-run. By mature startups we mean the companies that exist more than one year on the market, already got their clients’ base and are in search of significant change that could release their true potential.
This introduction will be followed by Workshop during TOA in Berlin, where we will share the findings from our research and also will invite one of our most successful clients, a mature startup that has already defined a winning strategy for the future, to give a speech. To introduce you to the topic we’ve decided to create a checklist for each sphere of company activity, which would lead you to the conclusions that successful startups have already obtained.
SALES AND CUSTOMER SUPPORT
Sales may seem as the easiest part at the beginning. If the product is already proved and you have hired a talented team, the process goes smoothly. However, scaling sales and high-quality customer support may become an issue.
Ask yourself first:
1. Do I really know my customers? Does my product fully meet his/her expectations?
If so, make sure all of your team members know it as well. Complaints and lost customers are the main source of information.
2. Is my service vision clear? Does everyone in the team sees it as clearly as I do?
If so, implement metrics and regular indicators to put this vision into numbers. Discuss the overall performance with the team in order to build a genuine service mindset together.
3. Don’t you complicate the process by improving?
The only rule here is to react on time and make the process friendly to customers as well as your employees. It is much easier to handle issues right away than to delay them. By keeping process friendly you minimize the risks of losing any of the parts.
4. What do sales and customer support really mean to me?
Sales are sales, not the races. Put less stress on it and work on your product and existing customers. Customer support is also part of sales, not just collecting complaints to the box. Make sure your team understands that - it will make them confident and probably double your results.
MARKETING AND PR
1. Do I target my audience?
There are many examples of companies that are successful in sales but still spend 80% of their time on the process simply by being everywhere and doing all possible marketing activities. Be clear in what your target market is and what are the messages you want to communicate to them.
2. Do I reach the influencers?
The digital age is rapidly changing everything. Internet is now a market place and influencers are you vendors. Know them, communicate to them and reach out to them regularly with your product.
3. Don’t I focus on competition too much?
Never believe in hype! When you’re inside the bubble and pay attention to every announcement of your nearest 3–4 competitors it’s easy to get despondent and lose time you could spend on your product improvement.
4. Don’t I plan to invest too much?
Your product is always your best marketing tool. If it is able to speak for itself, support it but don’t pay through the nose.
The phrase "HR is dead" is repeated in startup circles quite often. As the list of procedures – yes, as the talents’ management – no and never will be. So take a look at the questions and answer if you are on the right way:
1. Do I invest enough in my team?
Strengthening your company’s capacity for collaboration and high performance requires long-term investments in building relationships and trust. Your team is the your main asset and by enriching it with knowledge, culture and values you maximize profit of all the parties.
2. Do I hire A-players?
An A Player is the right hire; a talented person who can do the, while fitting in with the culture of your company. A hiring mistake may cost 10-15 times an employee’s base salary in hard costs and lost productivity, so it is important to get it right. By hiring the best you also create an opportunity to attract other a-players to your company.
3. Is my communication with the team clear and sufficient?
4. Am I using the resources that are available to me?
Networks and referrals are invaluable. They’ll be your best sources for candidates.
Operations are those areas that startups don’t necessary consider important from the beginning, but still if you start small you won’t lose your time and money on chaotic and irregular processes when you scale up or make a lot of movement around your business.
Answer those questions:
- How the sales / production / project management process looks like (step by step)?
- Who is responsible for what in the startup?
- How do I monitor income and spending?
- If someone is hurt, who should I call?
Of course in most of the cases You should be elastic (take sales for example), but not knowing how to check progress of any process in Your team should be considered as a huge management risk.
Check If You have:
- Manual with rules of work for new employees,
- Spot where invoices can be put (shared drive or just a box in your office),
- Descriptive sales process that Your client can be introduced to,
- Production process manual or forwarding manual (can be very simple at the very beginning).
PRODUCTION (IN-HOUSE, OFF SHORE, NEAR-SHORE) AND PIVOTING
The idea of outsourcing or pivoting is common – ability to stay flexible being mature startup.
Both of the issues can pre-determine your success or failure, therefore, the approach here should be absolutely individual. There are no universal rules when you should or shouldn’t outsource or pivot. Start with WHY and if you find the answer to it - then do it.
This issue will be individually discussed during our Workshop at TOA and further case studies will be provided in a research paper.
This introduction is based on scanning ten companies that have identified the questions listed above as essential. By answering them a mature startup should have an idea for improving its strategy for scaling. The main value for us at Visuality is to be connected to the great product. And by sharing knowledge and experience we aim at the highest benefit of our clients and startup community. On 15th of July we will question mature startups.
Join us and lets start this fascinating journey together!