Five Steps To Run And Scale A Successful Startup

Angelica Kopec

Today’s business world is a very different game — everyone seems to want a piece of the startup action, but many fail to go from startup to scale up. Here’s my top five steps to successfully run and scale a startup:

1. Integrate Hard And Soft Skills With Horizontal Leadership

Successfully-run startups move away from a traditionally patriarchal organizational structure and benefit from horizontal leadership. Setting a horizontal mindset facilitates a role-agnostic approach to collaboration and creates an environment where everyone’s thoughts are valued. This helps lead to making decisions in the best interests of the business rather than based on hierarchy.

This transformational leadership style coupled with a team of individuals who encompass both hard and soft skills is what it truly takes to shift a successful startup to scale up.

An article in Harvard Business Review of a recent study looking into 95 startup teams identified that while experience “broadens the teams’ resource pool” and is “positively related to team effectiveness,” a startup needs individuals with soft skills to really drive success. Successful teams are made up of those who combine knowledge and experience with purpose, engagement and connection. Individuals who are more self-aware, exemplify empathy and establish conscious connections with others can help lead the startup to increased performance, productivity and financial outcomes.

2. Understand Your Data

Data is the fundamental core of a startup. Use external data from software (like Google Trends, Keywords Everywhere, SEM Rush, Ahfres) as a base for exploration. Begin archetyping ideal consumer personas and build a flexible marketing strategy around what’s trending in your industry, your competitors and potential consumers. Be wary; the caveat to these tools is that they only offer an estimate. They rely on a myriad of factors that may not be relevant to your niche or the way your business operates. To mitigate this, use internal data from Google Analytics, your CRM, marketing campaigns and other business intelligence (BI) and contract research organization (CRO) tools to understand what specifically works for your business. Learn how to utilize external data but trust your own data, while investing your money and time efforts into initiatives that both drive brand awareness and generate high-quality leads that convert to sales.

3. Create A Repeatable Sales Process

The fastest way to win consistent business and the best way of cultivating a high-performing sales function is creating a repeatable sales process. By default, startups are often like the “Wild Wild West” when it comes to sales, with an attitude of “let’s throw something and see what sticks.” While yes, on occasion, having a flexible sales process (at least in the early stages of the venture) can lead to short-term gains, your ship still needs to have a course in order to perform at its peak.

In an article on “What Sales Teams have in Common” published in Harvard Business Review, a study of 786 sales professionals indicated that 50% of high-performing sales companies have “closely monitored, strictly enforced or automated” sales processes and 48% of under-performing companies have non-existent or informal sales processes. Creating a sales roadmap that is tried and tested is important in startups for a myriad of reasons. One, it ensures each touchpoint is met; preventing leads from slipping through the cracks. Two, it facilitates scaling; if your startup booms and you need to make additional hires, you’ll be in a world of pain if you onboard a team of sales guns with no idea of your business’ best sales practices. Third, it generates learnings through rigorous record keeping; understanding the who, what, when, where, why of a lead to investigate conversions and lost sales.

4. Align Your Marketing And Sales Functions

A downfall of many businesses is the failure to align the marketing and sales functions. As Chris Connell, CMO of Compono, put it in CMO Magazine, “…with marketing taking on more responsibility for revenue, and a greater, long-term customer focus, marketing and sales are now a marriage, not a Tinder date.” 

Marketers and salespeople have skills that intertwine; when regular sound boarding is facilitated between them, information, knowledge and experience is transferred and magic happens. The lines are so blurred between the two functions that polarizing them fails to take advantage of an efficient and effective flow of conversions. In a startup, high rates of conversion are crucial to keep a business out of flux. When sales and marketing are siloed, startups are in danger of creating poor operational habits where marketing-qualified leads are not smoothly transitioned to sales-qualified leads, and ultimately sales conversions.

 5. Understand Your Resources Versus Outsourcing Needs

Time is money. Invest money in things you cannot do well and spend time on the things you can. Understand the capabilities of each team member and only give them relevant tasks — outsource the rest. With outsourcing platforms (like Outsource Accelerator, Upwork and Fiver) making the best offshore talent available at a fraction of regional salaries, you can get things done quickly and to a high standard. Getting together a solid outsourced team of low-cost, high-quality designers, coders, administrators, IT specialists, marketers and thinkers will expedite projects and allow you to optimize every aspect of your business. Proceed with caution; elements that impact your business foundation and overall function, like strategy building, should be left to regional consultants and credible contacts. It’s still a case of you-get-what-you-pay-for.

A Final Takeaway

The startup universe is exciting and has so many unexplored possibilities, ready for the taking. Follow these tips and apply your vision, passion and determination to bring your successful startup dream to fruition — and scale!