If you’re an established business, 5 years or longer, have the systems in place and are wondering how to get to the next level – maybe you need to re-start like a startup…
Here’s a few things to re-consider if you want growth.
First 5 Years
“Do whatever it takes”. Any job. Any hours. Any direction.
The joy of startups is wrapped beautifully in a ribbon that says “joy of starting”. It’s new. Exciting. You are on a path of discovery. Looking for what works. Risking and daring on a daily basis.
Anybody and everybody you work with can get wrapped up in this excitement too. This means “all hands on deck”. People are willing to do anything to make something happen when they feel a part of the creation.
One of the psychological triggers embedded in a startup mentality is knowing you were there at the beginning and you helped make that happen.
The first 5 years can look very different to the next 5 years. Hire someone in year 6 and all they want to do is their job. The already established business has a different energy when the startup culture is forgotten.
Your established success transforms slowly over time into maintaining what you do have – versus getting off the ground. Safety and risk is a different conversation in year 6. But it doesn’t have to be.
Action & Traction
The energy and action of starting something eventually leads to gaining some traction. Wheels won’t spin forever. The rubber will grip at some point and you’ll be moving.
And as you begin to gain traction, your tendency is to follow the path that is getting you success. Rightly so… maybe?
If the success is your market telling you “this is the direction we want to go” and it doesn’t align with the reasons you began – you have a decision to make.
For some, the joy is sucked right out of why they began because the little early successes dictate the direction. Like a drug, the successes become addictive and can be blindly followed. But it’s not what you started out to build.
I see this all the time when consulting. The business that centers its conversation around making money will always struggle. But worst of all, they’ll struggle on two fronts. One, they’ll struggle with the actual profitability. Two, they’ll struggle with the joy you can only get from adding value to people’s lives.
If the joy is lost – all is lost. You don’t want to end up creating a job for yourself that you wish you didn’t have. Your work should inspire you. It should always contain the reason you started in the first place.
The direction may change. But if the feeling changes beware.
If you build a company and preserve that startup-like culture that embodies the spirit of why you began, you can continue to innovate. Rock your own boat. Re-invent yourself and don’t get stagnant because success in one direction dictates to you.
Now it could be argued that success in the marketplace IS what you set out to do. That is helping people. Which is only true if it ticks the box on the reason you started. Are you making the difference you intended to make (purpose driven) or have you sold out and followed the path to coin (profit driven)? There is a difference.
Under Your Roof
Once established, businesses often go from hiring talent to hiring replacements. They stop looking for people to create the new. They start looking for people to replace the existing. Whether its the natural turnover of staff or someone who can tick off the ever expanding to do list being created by the success you’ve built – if you don’t keep renewing, challenging, testing and failing – you will lose the very thing you started out creating.
The excitement, the risk, the fun of growth – versus conforming to maintain what’s been built is the reason people sell up, lose their mojo and see game-changing products and services become another mundane money maker. Look around. You can see it everywhere. Dell computers versus Apple. Netflix versus Blockbuster. Tesla versus well… everyone!
You can profit as much as you like and need but don’t lose the edgy coolness that made you get out of bed. Don’t lose the surprise factor you created for your customers as you built the new. Because “amazing” is what leads to profit. But for you, it’s the road to pure joy!
With systems, there’s the implied mentally of only doing what you’ve always done to get where you are now. Anything outside of this excites feelings of risk. And that risk causes people to pull back and conform to the system. Once created, the courage to buck your own system takes courage. Real courage. You are forcing yourself to reinvent again. To create from scratch even though you have the wheels of the machine churning.
It’s easier in year 6 to just follow the system. Do what the manual says. The “egg-on-face” reality of bucking the system and doing it better carries more fear in the established business than in the startup. But it’s this initiative that stimulates people. Not just staff but customers too.
Would You Give Away Your Secrets?
Tesla, in my opinion, is the most innovative startup we have seen in the last century, if not ever.
How many businesses can you name where the Founder invested his entire personal fortune in the hundreds of millions, into an idea to completely transform the car manufacturing industry – and then give away the plans free to the world to use?
When you believe so much in an idea to transform people’s lives with the value you add, would you be willing to give away the “11 secret herbs and spices”?
On June 12, 2014, Founder and CEO Elon Musk released a statement titled “All Our Patents Belong to You”
“Tesla Motors was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport. If we clear a path to the creation of compelling electric vehicles, but then lay intellectual property landmines behind us to inhibit others, we are acting in a manner contrary to that goal. Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.”
Tesla made their plans to build an electric car free and open source. Now the world of car manufacturing has changed and within years we will see full electric vehicles dominate our roads. The change will sweep in. It took only 4 years for the horse and carriage to go from mainstream form of transportation to completely disappear from our roads with the invention and mass production of Henry Ford’s Model T back in the early 1900’s.
Just as craft beers have exploded onto the scene, maybe we’ll see craft electric cars in the years to come. Businesses built to produce parts so small business can create their own brand of cars. We are seeing this exponential growth in all other areas.
What does this mean for the future of your business and how can you restart like a startup? Hmmm, Title of your next Team Meeting?
Does Open Source Open the Doors to Global Help?
In software development, open source is a common term. It’s behind many of the biggest online platforms. Now we are seeing it behind the biggest and most established manufacturing industries in the world.
It might not mean going open source and giving away all your plans. Maybe it does.
Open source attracts global minds. People are out there who want to contribute. Amazing ideas that can add value to people’s lives attracts talent. But you have to start. No one else will start it for you. It doesn’t have to be perfect to tell people about it. That’s kinda the idea.
Restarting like a startup is about injecting that youthful energy back into your established business. Bring your culture to life again with some “unknowns”. Add some risk, fear and excitement by creating something you believe will help people.
You don’t need to wait for market research. All great business stories are built by Founders who knew what the market needed even before they were ready to pay for it. Yes, this might mean you are before your time and the market isn’t ready. But go tell that to Elon Musk and see what he says to you!