5 Things Startup CEOs Can’t Live Without When Growing Their Business

You’re a startup founder or CEO, you’ve developed your product or service and beginning to establish a brand. You’ve had some success winning clients and feel there is more to come.

But how to take the next step to where you are seeing substantial progress and increases in your revenue? James Ker-Reid, CEO of Sales For Startups, explains for CEO Today.

The road to growth is full of potholes and obstacles, but fear not! Below you’ll find some key tips to help any entrepreneur scale up their business, working with existing resources to realise your aims from within.

1. Sell with a strategy

For any company, but especially a startup, sales and revenue are the lifeblood of your business. Your sales performance will more often than not determine whether your business is successful or not and without both quantity and quality of revenue you cannot grow.

A sales strategy is the compass that defines all sales activities, marketing efforts, and partnerships. A clear sales strategy will have a massive impact on operations and recruitment at your startup, yet the perceived complexity of creating one puts a lot of companies off really trying to boil down what their strategy is. Another common issue lies with founders and CEOs overlooking the importance of explaining why existing sales approaches or strategies exist.

Taking the time to clearly set out who you want to engage, how you want to engage and why you are engaging them will make life a lot easier for everyone. Furthermore, by creating and crafting this Sales strategy to suit the needs and aims of the company, you will provide a focus for your team and create a sense of accountability for all involved. Of course, your strategy might change over time, but even as it evolves you should be continually checking your activities are in keeping with your aims and approach. If a particular prospect or activity doesn’t match up to your strategy, then you need to be asking why that decision was taken, and how it can be avoided in future.

2. Optimise your team’s efforts

A common challenge for startups is working with limited resources to make the biggest impact on the market possible. Often this means one member of staff is doing several different roles within the company, and while there is no way out of this dilemma in the short-term, in order for staff to be effective in their role and for their company this model is inherently flawed.

To break from this mould, ask yourself where you add most value, what you enjoy most and what you dislike from your role. Once you have your answers you can begin to move forward. Delegate, eliminate or automate some of the low-value tasks you hate and schedule in and protect time for the most valuable activities that you perform. This is your chance to really take control and decide what activities are really going to help your team grow your business.

Having the wrong people in the wrong places is a killer blow to businesses and may be one of the core reasons your startup isn’t realising its full growth potential, so once you’ve streamlined your workload, turn your attention to your team. Ask them the same questions, compare that with your own view of what they do, and never underestimate their potential impact.

The net effect of defining the key actions for each of your staff will mean everyone will really understand the strengths of the team, and you will able to identify where value is provided to either your end customer or to the benefit of internal operations at the company. You have to leverage the power of your people, and listening and sharing advice with your team based on your own experience will also help create the sort of open, collaborative working environment that will attract the best talent and keep them in post.

3. Make your marketing meaningful

Many companies see marketing as a cost rather than an investment, often spending on a marketing campaign which is set up and simply left to run its course. The result is unrefined or unfinished marketing campaigns that simply don’t deliver the results. Put simply, marketing will always be a cost if you don’t react and respond to the feedback the market and statistics are giving you on an hourly and daily basis.

Once you take full responsibility for your marketing, you’ll begin to see genuine progress, especially when it comes to understanding the effect and efficiency of your activities. Real-time analytics and readily available technology constantly support a process of creation, curation and analysis, so you always have the opportunity to improve and tailor what you are doing in order to reach your target audience. The key thing is to recognise the tactics you first envisioned using might be very different to those you end up using at the end of a campaign. If you can remain nimble and reactive, there really is no excuse for a campaign not to achieve its goals.

4. Lay the groundwork for growth

If you want your startup to become a scale-up, you have to embrace a new way of working and move from small to big business thinking.

For example, a common problem arises from the inconsistency and inefficiency of invoicing and protecting cashflow. When a startup first wins its first few customers, it is often hugely grateful for that custom and will agree to payment terms that are not necessarily favourable to them. As a result, when it comes to the time of invoicing, you will often find yourself chasing clients for unpaid invoices, rather than laying out the terms of the agreement and stipulating what happens when the client doesn’t pay their invoice from the outset.

You need to understand that your customer is buying the ‘perceived value’ of your product or service to bring about a benefit or solve a problem that they have. This ‘perceived value’ is governed by the experience the customer has during their buying experience with you, an experience produced by the values and systems/processes inherent within your business. If your systems result in you needing to chase your customers for payment, it’s only going to damage your relationship and therefore, your value. Your business is ultimately a combination of your systems and the product or service you market to your customers, so if you have an inefficient and ineffective system, you will pass that lack of value onto your customers.

5. Appreciate the value of partnerships

The startup mentality is understandably invariably one focussed on revenue and cashflow, with something approaching an insider, insular way of thinking. Yet one of the quickest ways of growing a startup is to leverage partnerships. The only problem is collaborations can be complex, time-intensive and are often an unknown quantity for many, so it’s not uncommon for startups to spend little time exploring, nurturing and building partnerships despite the huge potential benefits of doing so.

Thinking in the simplest terms, growing a partnership is a value exchange, where you look to provide your partner with immense value to sell, distribute or promote the value of your product or service. Often in return you’ll agreed to replicate this for their own services or to service their existing client bank, too.

However, the key to truly successful partnerships is that you have to continually improve, educate and monitor the partnership to gain the maximum value from the relationship. Much like with customer relationships, it’s not a simply a case of win or lose. When negotiating and brokering partnerships, you have to go in thinking of it as a win-win scenario for both parties. If you can add genuine value to each other’s offering you’re likely to see even greater benefit than pure commercial gain, but one of scale, distribution and cost savings on developing leads.

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