When it comes to building a successful startup, Silicon Valley sets the standard. With immense talent and capital, it’s no wonder that no other place churns out more startups.
But you don’t need a lot of capital to build a great startup. Triumphing over the competition is all about scaling big and doing it quickly. There’s no reward for the company that does something first — it’s all about who can do it biggest, best and fastest.
I know this from firsthand experience. When my business first launched, growth wasn’t at the forefront of my team’s concerns. We had just another scrappy, reactive company trying to stay afloat.
But once we decided to prioritize scaling, success followed rapidly. In the process, we discovered that swift expansion requires a few key elements: the right team, culture, and space — as well as some creative wordsmithing.
Prepare Your Brand for Growth
In order to scale quickly, you have to realize that your business is not all about you, but about building an organization that works so fluidly it practically grows itself, even if you’re not there to run it.
To achieve this, you’ll need four important ingredients:
An Independent Team
Rapid growth requires a team that can function well on its own. Your team should be composed of people with brilliant ideas who are enabled and encouraged to implement those ideas independently — and each member should be able to fill several roles at a time, if need be.
This entails putting effective hiring and training processes in place. To grow at a sprint, you also need to scale the ratio of employees to managers accordingly.
To accomplish this, my company empowered different tiers of our business to hire and manage within their own departments. We had department heads create clear, concise training documents that would let new hires hit the ground running. We also instituted a “watch one, do one, teach one” approach to help us replicate skill sets quickly. Having new hires shadow their teammates before attempting hands-on tasks helped us build an organic and self-supporting onboarding and training system.
A Solid, Appealing Company Culture
In a way, this is part of the hiring process. You need to make sure that the people you take on are right for your team and will enjoy sticking around to help the company flourish.
For us, that meant letting people listen to music and allowing an employee to enjoy a drink at 5 p.m. as long as he had been working hard throughout the day. The point is that we weren’t nitpicky; if people were doing their jobs well, they could do it however they wanted.
Be aware of the fact that people spend most of their lives at work, so it should be a place they enjoy. No one should hate his job, even if it’s difficult and taxing. Creating a company culture that recognizes this is essential.
An Effective Space
This is pretty straightforward. As your company gets bigger, so will your need for accommodation. Finding a space that allows you and your team to operate the most productively makes all the difference.
We were lucky enough to get a great landlord who helped us relocate into six different spots in the same building within just two years to find a space that fit us best. Moving is difficult, so take the time to find someone who will be welcoming and easy to work with.
If you can come up with a unique phrase to describe what your company does, it will stand out and grab a prospective customers’ attention.
Although my company is essentially a digital marketing agency, we realized using that labeling it as such didn’t help drive business — that term just made us seem generic. For example, if I was at an event and told people I ran a digital marketing agency, their eyes would immediately glaze over. But if I explained my role as an “outsourced CMO,” suddenly I had their rapt attention.
Today, this unique positioning stands for a higher echelon of marketer, and we use it across all of our marketing collateral and advertising. The key is to figure out all of these foundations and processes before you try to scale. According to a recent survey, 74 percent of failures happen when companies attempt to scale too soon, so don’t jump the gun.
Silicon Valley might have set the standard for scaling to success, but that doesn’t mean its model is limited to companies in the tech industry. My company isn’t in tech, and by creating a scalable business we compensated for an ever-expanding workload without sacrificing performance or revenue.
If you want to show up the competition, get ready to scale your business. Find the right people, space and some innovative phrasing, and your success will build exponentially.
BusinessCollective, launched in partnership with Citi, is a virtual mentorship program powered by North America’s most ambitious young thought leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners.
Image Credit: CC by Ken Teegardin