We cover marketing and growing your brand a great deal here, but what about how businesses actually work? Starting a business is not as simple as buying a domain and setting up a website on WordPress. It’s about having a valid concept to bring in revenue and solid projections for growth.
Let’s break down the growth stages in the lifecycle of a business – where does your business fit in?
Phase 1: Problem/Solution Fit
You’ve got an idea. Maybe a great idea. But it’s just an idea – for now. The first step to taking an idea into a business is understanding who’s needs it meets, how it meets them, and whether they’d be willing to pay for it.
This is crucial, many folks have great ideas and run with them only to find that no one is willing to pay for it, or even test it out. That’s a path that leads to lots of wasted time and money and you don’t want that. In this stage, getting away from your laptop and talking to people is essential, we recommend reviewing The Lean Startup and Talking to Humans as they give a great framework for product research and customer validation.
Shop your idea around too. Build a landing page to collect signups for early access to your product, the traction it generates will give you an idea as to how compelling your product really is.
Phase 2: MVP
This is where we begin to actually create something. You’ve validated your product concept and know that it meets a specific set of needs, now you need to put the rubber to the road and build something people can use.
The key word here is ‘viable’. An MVP is not a product that does not work, it’s a product that does the bare minimum for what you aim to do. For us, our MVP was the newsfeed, which we then built out to include custom keyword entry, social publishing integrations, task creation… you get the idea.
Now an MVP can vary between industries, you may work in manufacturing, food, biotech or others. Here’s a great resource on ways to test and validate your MVP. The goal of the MVP is to see what features/aspects of your product are ‘sticky’ and which ones just aren’t working for your target customers. This allows you to spend a little amount of time to validate your primary assumptions, and then a lot more time doubling down on what you learned.
Phase 3: Product Market Fit and Scale
You did it. Your MVP gained traction, you’re learning and iterating, you’ve got paying customers and maybe they’re even telling their friends about it. These are the telltale signs of product/market fit, and it’s the phase that you need to push the pedal on the gas down and keep moving forward.
Get the word out there – continue sharing content across channels, join meetups to spread the word, post on online forums – you get the deal. Fan the flames to build a roaring fire and always, always, always monitor usage and feedback to ensure you’re on the right track.
As you scale it may be time to take on an investment, there’s a trend where folks have great ideas and try to get money upfront to build on them, that is not necessary. You can bootstrap for quite some time while keeping costs low to get to this point. It just takes some creativity.
Phase 4: Maturity into established company
You’ve done it. You have an office, multiple departments, payroll, benefits, the works. You are an established company and now it’s time to grow.
Perhaps it’s time to expand your reach, either nationally or internationally. Maybe you’ll want to open up a second office. Or heck, go public if the industry is right. Whatever your decision here, continue to invest in your team and your company, make decisions that will sustain long-term growth as opposed to quick spurts of growth. You’re not a startup anymore, but you can foster a culture of creativity and entrepreneurship that will encourage growth inside your own doors.