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Every startup goes through the same repetitive bottlenecks:
(1) you need to improve the product,
(2) you need awareness to test the product,
(3) you have scaling problems because people like the product.
Early on, when the team was small, I found we broke through problems more effectively when we focused together on one thing at a time vs spreading ourselves too thin & dividing & conquering.My best technique was writing down all the possible levers to pull to fix the problem to grow. Then, dividing & conquering as a team on each lever until we achieved victory. Writing it down helped
(1) formalize thoughts &
(2) prioritizing what to do to make the biggest impact.
You often have to grind through a list of 20 things to change the trajectory of your company. Not necessarily because all 20 sum up (sometimes they do) but because sometimes it requires significant experimentation to discover a longer lasting breakthrough. Most people don't realize every company, no matter how successful, continually hit walls in growth. Our 1st was that our product wasn't much better than GA. Next, we couldn't explain how we were different. Later, we didn't know how to get more than just startups using us.Your job as CEO is to build a team that can constantly & proactively discover the next wall you'll encounter & encourage them to find creative methods to break through. The cycle will repeat so place teams on all the critical areas of your business that will present obstacles.I learned the hard way & failed to place focused teams on all the critical areas that create growth. Took several years to repair. Breakdown your growth into a mathematical formula of variables & work to fill in spots with people accountable to each variable in that equation.
Your team will naturally gravitate to low hanging fruit to juice the numbers. Sometimes that's right if you've grossly neglected that area of the biz. Sometimes it's wrong but the less riskier route. They will need your encouragement to fail & take risks to change the slope. When times are dire, the worst thing you can do during this moment is to be overly patient for numbers to rebound. Freak out, don’t zen it out:
The ‘Oh, Shit!’ Moment When Growth Stops. Maybe I am nuts but I found it therapeutic & helpful to remind myself/team that we would probably die or lose to competitors if we didn't solve this problem. It made us laser focused vs terrified as a small team. You can't say you'll die w/ each crisis though. Loses weight.
Consider the areas you're strong at & the areas you're weak at when fixing bottlenecks. Areas you're weak at may be areas that make you uncomfortable but are opportunities for investment. (ie: doing sales, public speaking, building a boring feature, getting technical)
Inspired by a conversation I had today with another founder struggling a bit about how to breakthrough. Thanks for reading. Hope it helps someone.
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