The start-up lesson to embrace and the ones you should ignore

early stages, grow, start-up

Seven-figure capital investments, IPOs, game-changing technology, unicorns (the venture capital term for a start-up company whose value exceeds $1 billion)… We’ve all seen our fair share of start-up success stories strutting their stuff on the global stage.

Read up about how some start-up founders pulled off this feat and you’ll find a couple of recurring themes: failing fast – giving your concept a red hot go but pulling the pin quickly if it doesn’t fly; and scaling faster – pulling out all the stops to turn it from a promising small business into a Bigger than Ben Hur behemoth, in the space of a couple of years.

It’s an approach to growth that may work if your business is a ’10 per-center’. That’s how many start-ups are still standing after 18 months, according to some reports. Lack of market demand and a paucity of funding and skilled personnel see the rest sink without trace or, in some instances, become salutary lessons for other aspiring entrepreneurs.

If your goal is to found and grow a sustainable small to medium-sized enterprise, and you have realistic expectations about how long it can take to do so, it may pay to take a rather different and more measured tack.

Learning from experience: the iteration approach

Typically, turning a one or two-person enterprise into a sizeable, stable business is a gradual process and one that’s achieved via iteration. The term refers to the process of doing the same thing over and over, making incremental improvements as you go. This is also a practice that start-ups swear by and, unlike failing fast and scaling faster, it makes excellent sense for small businesses looking to achieve growth and long term viability.

Within the SME cohort, improvements very often emanate from the business owner’s close relationship with their customers. Keeping your finger firmly on the pulse – understanding the current and emerging needs of your buyers and evolving your product or service offering to meet them – can help ensure your enterprise stays relevant and competitive.

Turning to technology

But while it’s simple enough to remain attuned to your market when your customers number in the tens, it’s a somewhat trickier proposition as your enterprise begins to expand and you find yourself servicing a base of hundreds or perhaps even thousands of regulars.

That’s where automation technology can play a make or break role. Investing in a cloud-based customer experience platform can allow you to connect with your customers in a meaningful, personalised way, via an array of digital channels. It can also help you to collect and synthesise vital information on how those customers interact with your organisation and utilise your products and services.

The net result can be a single source of truth: a deep well of data that can be tapped for actionable insights – things you may be able to do differently or better to make your business more competitive. Start putting them into practice – and measuring the results – and odds are you’ll see a corresponding uptick in sales.

Striving for success in 2022 and beyond

Unless you have ambitions to turn your enterprise into Australia’s next unicorn business – and should that be the case, I wish you every success in doing so! – sustainable, customer-driven growth is very likely your end game. Use the intelligence you gather to keep on improving your operations and offering and, over time, your SME will get wherever it is that you want it to go.