Navigating the Growth Traps

Now it’s time to accelerate that success and transition from a startup to a sustainable business 

Growth traps are an inevitable part of scale and knowing some of the traps can help you to prepare. Preparation doesn’t mean you will avoid them, but it will allow you to be on the front foot, to be more responsive and less reactive when fighting the fires. 

You’ll have a better chance of realising the milestones in your roadmaps.

Learning to let go

It’s no longer realistic to have input into every decision and this can feel like you’re removed from your own business. Knowing the kind of founder you are and being aware of your strengths and weaknesses will help you ‘get out of your own way’ and not become an obstacle to growth. 

Knowing when it’s time to scale

Once you have successfully defined your value proposition to address a market opportunity, you need to switch focus to the company’s ability to execute. 

Knowing when to scale is critical because if you scale too early it will cost you dearly, but scale too late and you could miss the opportunity to lead. 

Trust in your A-team

As founder and leader is it’s important to empower others, especially your senior leadership team and give them the autonomy to lead. To this point you’ve been the epicentre of the business and relinquishing that role can be hard. 

To maximize growth potential you need to make the right hires - find people whose expertise fill knowledge gaps and who likely know more about some aspects of business than you do. 

Prepare to pivot

Your business and the market is constantly evolving, so knowing when to pivot and how to do it successfully is key. When considering big change consider the importance of having an outside perspective with fresh ideas at the table. Any new offering should maintain quality of your product, and most importantly listen to your customers – will they still want your product after you pivot?

Cultural Continuity and creating a platform to empower people

Culture is not ping pong and free beer it is how you choose do business – your style, personality, conscience…It’s a framework of shared values, beliefs and guiding principles that enables people to represent your business. Culture can help your team make tough decisions when there is no obvious answer – it can guide you to do the right thing.

Repeatability and predictability

Scaling is about efficiency; it means getting your product and service out to your customer faster, at a reducing cost and with the same or better quality. At this point you want customer acquisition costs, time and cost of adoption to be decreasing while customer engagement, retention and revenue are increasing. 

Last in the door as important as the first

You started the business with a mission and a set of cultural markers that make up your company’s identity. Now with more staff and less time with them it’s important any new team member experiences the same (or better) introduction as the founding members, and most importantly understand and champion your mission. Remember your human capital is your most valuable asset.

Opportunity gain VS distraction pain

As you grow, more opportunities will present themselves – licensing agreements, consultancy, partnerships­­... and the money or potential client may seem very appealing. Ask yourself if this opportunity helps you achieve your overall mission and what ‘pain’ is associated with the opportunity – for your product, people and shareholders. It’s important to maintain focus and weigh up possible distraction pain against the opportunity gain before committing.