When you’re starting your own business, everyone wants to give you advice. Someone’s cousin owns an accounting firm or their best friend’s roommate had a business go bankrupt. They’ve all read Steve Jobs’ biography or watched the “Silicon Valley” television series. And they’re eager to tell you the dos and don’ts of startup culture and even recommend marketing strategies or product ideas for scaling your business.
Your friends, family, and neighbors are coming from a good place. And some of their startup advice is solid. But wouldn’t you rather hear from someone with more experience in the startup world?
Geoff Blaisdell, the founder of Beyond Formation, has worked for more than three decades as a builder, leader, executive, and change agent. In addition to his successful corporate career, Geoff advises startups, invests in startups directly and via VCs, and has built his own startups
Geoff is an expert you can’t ignore. He’s seen dozens of startups succeed or fail. He knows what investors are looking for. And he wants entrepreneurs like you to build strong businesses that can scale exponentially in the years to come. He is passionate about scaling your business with you.
So read on, startup founders and entrepreneurs! Geoff recommends six essential steps for building and scaling your business.
- Lay the foundation.
Yes, you need to start with a business plan, a detailed one. It’s not one of the most exciting parts of creating a startup. But it’s one of the most important.
Without a rock-solid foundation, it doesn’t matter how good your idea is or how much people need or want your product. Your business is still likely to start crumbling at the first serious roadblock.
While writing your business plan, give some serious thought to these questions, even if they don’t seem relevant at such an early stage:
- How will you monetize your business? In other words, how are you going to turn a profit?
- How will you raise capital? How much do you need?
- What operating expenses will you have this year? What about five years from now?
- How will you develop your product or service over multiple iterations? How will you test it?
- How will you recruit team members? What kind of team members are you looking for? What salary/benefits will you offer?
- Who will handle accounting: balancing the books, managing revenue streams and expenses, completing payroll and taxes?
- What are your plans for legal, human resources, and IT?
If you start planning for these things now, before you even launch your product, your startup is more likely to raise money from investors and then scale up to reach new markets.
- Set your mission, vision, and culture.
One of the most significant mistakes a startup can make is to let their culture emerge by default, or to define it but fail to communicate it. Founders often think culture deserves less attention than strategy, marketing, or product development. But that’s short-term thinking. A business built to scale sets and implements values and culture from day one.
Your startup’s ways of building belonging will attract or repel top talent and investment. Support or stress your team. Boost productivity or bottleneck key initiatives. Increase diversity or limit perspectives. Create conflict or amplify consensus. And as a founder, that trajectory is up to you.
Learn more about how to set values and develop a startup culture.
- Get your team on board.
Once you’ve established your values and culture, you need to communicate this information to your team — whether that’s co-founders/partners, new hires, or even advisors and mentors.
The framing of your business — your strategy — should be something every part of your team understands. If everyone gets the common goal they are working toward, everyone feels empowered to find more innovative, individualized, and effective ways to contribute to the cause. Task lists turn into trajectories. Products iterate. Timelines accelerate.
- Speed up product development with Agile.
Now that tech moves markets, everything moves fast. And the traditional waterfall method most startups use to develop products — discovery, design, implementation, testing, delivery, and maintenance — has a significant flaw. Slower, more sequential work often means your final product is a perfectly polished solution to a problem from the past. And every product should be about the future.
Founders often want more time to develop their product and find their market. But the price you pay for taking money from outside investors is almost always time. So, like most startups, you must race the clock to meet critical benchmarks before your money (and your investors’ patience) runs out.
Agile ways of working can speed product development up without compromising the things you care about — quality, customer experience, and your team’s mental and physical health.
- Prepare an elevator speech for your product.
No matter how brilliant your product is, people won’t buy it if you can’t explain it to them. In fact, good products fail every day, and smart investors know bad stuff can still sell with the right go-to-market (GTM) strategy behind it.
Before you can begin building out customer personas, deciding whether you will collaborate or compete, and start screening digital marketing studios, you need to be able to succinctly explain what you sell in two minutes or less. If you can’t create an effective elevator speech, hire a communications expert who can. There’s so much more riding on it than you think.
- Find an influential investor.
In the startup world, when an investor says yes, it usually means maybe. That funding you so critically need is almost always conditional and relational.
Maybe an investor likes your big idea but doesn’t want to do a lot of due diligence. If someone they trust jumps in first, they can safely assume your startup checks out. In that case, their ”yes” means: If you can get $500,000, we’ll put in the next $150,000.
Agree to too many of these deals and your amazing startup has a stack of funds you can’t access until you convince one investor to jump in. In that case, your scaling your business isn’t hitting up a bunch of people, it’s working on cultivating and securing that first heavy hitter.
If you are focused on scaling your business and are determined to structure your startup for maximum valuation, Beyond Formation offers a clear and customizable Blueprint for smart, swift, and sustainable growth.