On Tuesday, our friends at SwingSpace put together an excellent panel discussion on “Accelerating Growth” that touched on several questions we here at GSS have been asking (and answering) ourselves as we continue to learn and grow.
Admittedly, it has been some time since I’ve attended a startup or tech-centric event. In the early years of GSS, it was a 2–3 night a week occurrence. We felt it necessary to be at every event possible, every night, for fear of missing an interaction or happening that would be valuable to our personal and professional growth. This event helped me realize how truly beneficial discussions such as these are for aspirational business leaders.
These are my 5 key pieces of advice that the panel addressed, drawn from their experience helping startups and small businesses take the next step in their growth, highlighted and expanded upon below:
1) The hardest part of running a business is…
So, you have started company. You have figured out how to monetize your product or service and someone is paying you their hard-earned money for it. Congratulations! You have figured out the hardest part of running a business. This seems elementary, but also very true. One of my favorite quotes goes something along these lines:
Your product or service is only worth as much as someone is willing to pay you for it.
We must remember that market and your customers will dictate your pricing, as Benjamin P. Hardy stated in a recent post:
“There is no ‘correct’ price for goods and services. The correct price is the perceived worth from the customer. If the price is too high, the customer won’t exchange their money for it.”
Okay. You are making money. Great! Now, expanding and translating that revenue into profitability is the second hardest part of running a business.
2) Process means predictability. Predictability means success.
I believe it was Dan Berger who cited the advice above from the book, Predictable Success. This in turn brought to mind an anecdote I read from Stephen Colbert in a GQ cover story regarding the necessity of focus and intention:
“Back at his office, Colbert delivered a soliloquy on the necessity of focus and intention, being fully present for whatever moment you are in. He was talking about comedy, and how to make a TV show 200 times a year, but it also felt like a text lifted from the Buddha’s sutras. The final goal, the product, is beside the point. ‘The end product is jokes, but you could easily say the end product is intention. Having intentionality at all times… The process of process is process.’”
I remind myself of this quote often and what it means. Without process, you have no product. Without process, you have no intention. Something is not worth doing if there is no intention. True effort, intentionality, requires process.
3) Focus on the details, but limit the number of details.
In the early stages, there is a tendency to become overly enthralled with every single detail of your business. To paraphrase Dan Berger: When his company, Social Tables, first opened its DC office, he recounted that he used to “walk around and clean up all over the place.” There would be a messy area and he would constantly tidy up the office because he just couldn’t stand the clutter.
As a hugely visual person myself, and appearance means a lot to me as well, I can empathize with his sentiments. It seems silly, but I’m a firm believer that attention to detail is what separates good from great. With a caveat. Some details are more important than others, and it is important that we remind ourselves to focus on the right details.
Attention to every detail can in and of itself become a distraction, and so one must be conscious of these distractions disguised as details. As Berger put it:
“Sometimes, success means letting things fall through the cracks.”
4) Hire your replacement.
Small business owners and operators often “wear many hats.” Starting a company is an extremely difficult task. Operations. Sales. Financials. They are all so deeply important to the overall success of your organization, and you’re effectively operating as the do everything C-suite of your startup or small business.
At some point, however, you must find your lane. Whether you are leading your tech team or shifting your focus to sales and business development, your time is much better spent focused in a specific area rather than spread across multiple areas.
If you plan to grow, you must scale. You will need to hire people to fill the voids you are ultimately leaving behind to focus on your business. This means finding exceptional talent, people smarter than you, to do the job you used to do. In other words, hire your replacement.
5) Find a mentor or coach.
By far the hardest part of accomplishing anything is getting started. Whatever it is that you want to accomplish, having a mentor or coach impart their wisdom and provide advice along the way will help you realize that dream and achieve that goal.
Highly successful people have dreams and goals just like you and I, but until we make a move to act on them, they will always remain unrealized dreams and goals. The purpose is to achieve them.
“A dream without a plan is just a wish.”
- Katherine Paterson, The Invisible Child
Mentors can provide the inspiration and guidance to encourage you to take that first step in accomplishing your goals and coaches often help you realize a vision. This is the “secret sauce” for those leaders who enact change and inspire achievement, because nothing great was ever accomplished alone.
Thanks to the excellent panelists and @WeWork for hosting a stellar event!
- Tara Chiarell, General Manager @ Allison+Partners
- Dan Berger, Founder & CEO @ Social Tables
- David Giannini, Director & CEO @ Cirrusworks
- Steve Taylor, General Manager @ Lyft
- Matt Monks, Operations Manager @ Instacart