How To Take Your Startup From Good to Great With These 3 Tips
Hint: It’s all about focus + process.
I remember the days when we’d work 18–20 hours, staying up to see the sunrise, and heading out of the office for a quick catnap while our neighbors were getting in to start their day. After a 3-hour snooze, we were back at it all over again. On the weekends, I’d either catch up on sleep and continue working, or burn the candle at both ends and try to remain relevant in my social circles. We loved and dreaded every minute of it, and I still feel strongly that if it weren’t for some of those late nights we wouldn’t be where we are today.
Like many startups, King Tide had seen strong growth in our first year of business. Part of this was in thanks to the companies that joined us on our journey from the onset, but a much bigger part was the concept of “working through it”. This is a philosophy many startups employ where essentially you grind it out, never stopping to look at the big picture and hoping for the best. There was no budget we couldn’t service, no deadline we couldn’t meet, as long as we had some coffee, red bulls, sunflowers seeds, and, well, use your imagination. Did we ever stop and think “Maybe we’re not charging enough?” Or, “Maybe this deadline is too short?” Don’t worry, we can work through this.
As I’m sure you may have seen, that story doesn’t end well for most people. At least that model isn’t sustainable. Today, I’m very happy with how the company is doing and I judge that based on the happiness of our team. Every month, I sit down one-on-one with the team members and check in with them. One of the questions I ask is “On a scale from 1 to 10, how happy are you?” From 6 months ago to today, I have seen the answer to this question escalate from 6’s and 7’s to 9’s and 10’s, and by and large everyone, including myself, feels great.
Below are a few key things that took our company from Good to Great. I want to be clear that I don’t mean “great” in the sense that Jim Collins means great. We’re not worth a billion dollars and we’re not ranked on Forbes as the top 50 greatest places to work. I’m talking about working in a great environment, collaborating with happy people, and making good money doing it.
These are the 3 tools that we implemented last year that helped us go from good to great.
1. Find Your FOCUS
When Bill Gates and Warren Buffett were asked to write down their top secret to success in the HBO documentary Becoming Warren Buffett, they wrote down the same word. That word was Focus.
The two important factors to finding focus are to determine what you are passionate about, and to understand where you excel. This can be viewed as a Venn diagram because these different value sets don’t always overlap. Finding the center where these two areas intersect is your sweet spot, and should become your focus.
For King Tide, we were excelling in many areas. One one hand, we were helping e-commerce brands grow from a few thousand a month to a million dollars or more per year. This required a lot of horsepower from our team to manage content creation, social media, SEO, online marketing, email and influencer marketing. On the other hand, we were building websites and mobile apps using outsourced teams to deliver a finished product. We were doing both good, but not great. More importantly, we weren’t very happy because we felt undervalued and in a constant cycle of the same challenges. After helping brands reach revenue number north of 7 figures, they would often leave us to bring these services in-house.
We realized that we were most excited about building digital products that could make a real-world impact. It was a difficult decision to transition away from marketing, a much larger source of our recurring revenue, but by doing so it liberated us and gave us the freedom to focus all of our attention on digital product development. We found a great marketing partner to refer all of this business to, and today our clients and our team are very happy with the outcome.
2. Document and Follow Your PROCESS
There’s a lot of talk about process in business. Process is an easy concept to understand, but a very difficult system to implement. If done correctly, process should slow you down which can be time consuming and tedious, but it will save you so much time and money in the long run, 100% guaranteed.
Over the past year, we’ve documented every step of our process from A-Z, from pre-sales to post-launch maintenance. The emails, proposals, project scopes, meeting agendas, design structure, development sprints and project updates are all documented to the very last pixel. If we follow our process and get sign-offs at the related milestones, we deliver a product our clients are happy with and our team feels great about.
3. Read and Implement Traction, by Geno Wickman
In 2017, I was introduced to this book from a mentor of mine who had recently seen great results implementing this system for his business. Intrigued, I picked it up and this book changed our organizational structure, and eventually the entire culture of our company.
Traction is a simple system to help you define and run your business. It’s not complicated or theoretical, and a lot of what’s outlined may seem obvious at first, but the The Entrepreneurial Operating System® is a practical method for getting what you want out of your business. Simple ideas like defining your Vision, Mission and Values, to Accountability Charts, Weekly Meetings and Quarterly “Rocks” (or goals) are all explained in detail. Traction is now used by tens of thousands of renowned companies, and there are certified Traction consultants that focus only on working with companies to implement this system.
“Vision without traction is merely hallucination.”
― Gino Wickman
Today, we get into the office and leave at reasonable hours, something of which most startups don’t have the luxury. We understand what we are doing when we get to the office every day, what we’re working toward, our north star — and what we’re not going to do, thanks to our focus. And, we have fun doing it, because deep down we know that our process is going to protect us from whatever comes our way. It’s our safety net, our security blanket, our Dwayne Johnson.
“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.” — Stephen Hawking (RIP, 2018)
I love working with entrepreneurs. If you have any questions or want to share war stories, don’t be shy. Email me at email@example.com