If you’ve ever watched the startup world with a sense of wonder and a bit of envy, you’re not alone. Innovative companies that are backed by venture capital and staffed with today’s top talent have risen to the top of their industries, making headlines and developing exciting new products and services. Whether or not they lead to a record-breaking IPO, startups often streamline and innovate their way to higher levels of productivity. As a busy business owner, it’s possible to take a lesson from their book and develop creative thinking to increase the velocity of your operations.
Focus on Top Talent
Hiring talent is a significant focus for startups. If you’re small and agile, it’s important to have the right talent onboard to solve problems. Often, startups are operating with small teams and need employees with the top insights, motivation and productivity. They also often rely on individuals to fulfill multiple roles. For small businesses, high-growth startups provide a model to use to evaluate your hiring and make sure you’ve got the best talent you can afford.
Questions to ask about your hiring practices include:
- Is my hiring focused on the most critical roles in my company? Am I spending payroll dollars on the positions that will make a difference to my bottom line?
- Does my hiring process offer insight into what skills candidates offer? For example, instead of relying primarily on interviews, could I use case studies or applied projects to more accurately assess the potential of top candidates?
Invest Strategically in Productivity to Eliminate Administrative Work
One of the characteristics of many startups is that they’re technology-forward. Since they’re operating on lean budgets, with even leaner teams, it’s important to determine where investing in technology can provide an advantage. For example, using an applicant tracking system can reduce or eliminate the administrative work required by your recruiting department. Similarly, a customer relationship management tool can help ensure you’re delivering an excellent customer experience by sharing relevant details with your customer service, operations and sales teams.
High-growth startups ask five critical questions when choosing technology that helps ensure they capture a high ROI:
- Does this tool solve a critical problem in my business or give me a competitive advantage?
- Will there be a bottom-line advantage in dollars saved or revenue earned?
- Does the provider have the reliable reputation to ensure this tool fits my needs and is a good long-term investment?
- Is their customer service organization sophisticated enough to ensure that any problem I have can be resolved quickly and efficiently?
- How deep does provider service management go? Smaller businesses don’t have the time or IT staff that’s required to manage complex technology and provide the necessary ongoing care for tasks such as information security patches and frequent upgrades. You should view your provider as a partner who can provide the expertise and breadth to fulfill your present and future technology needs.
Use Collaboration Software to Speed up Core Processes
The most successful startups look for every way possible to leverage their teams and help them work together more effectively as a unit. Collaboration software is a critical class of technology that high-growth startups aren’t skimping on. In today’s busy landscape, your team can be working from anywhere – whether you leverage freelancers, have multiple offices, outsource your work or simply have to get projects done while at home or on the road. With collaboration software, teams are able to work together on key projects in real time or to provide up-to-the-minute visibility into client projects.
Some questions to consider include:
- Do you have teams based in different offices, countries or time zones?
- Are you looking for tools that allow you to work effectively with remote employees or institute telecommuting?
- Are your teams asking for more chances to collaborate, while you must control travel costs?
- Do you need better systems or business applications that provide the secure mobility to help you manage projects or encourage employees to work together on documents?
Make Data-Driven Decisions
Top leaders in the startup space are often using data in ways their competitors are not. Whether it’s operational data on how to make their own performance more effective by eliminating friction and roadblocks, or customer data to more efficiently serve the market, big data can help small businesses get more accomplished. In order to maximize the use of your data, start by defining the problems you want to solve. For example, if your goal is to align your business more strategically with market needs, investing in your sales and customer data infrastructure can help.
Data can help you identify which market forces are impacting your business decisions and if key investments are likely to yield the long-term results needed for your business’ growth.
Creating a successful data strategy includes:
- Defining your business problem
- Ensuring you know which data are necessary to make smart decisions
- Determining how analytics can help you use that data to find key insights and create feedback loops
- Evaluating which technology is needed to collect that data over time
Agility is essential in fostering high growth. When a successful startup tries something and fails, they pivot and continue experimenting until they find what works for them. For example, if a startup tries to implement a new project management system and it doesn’t work for their team’s needs, they’ll re-evaluate and change systems. Similarly, if they launch a new service that doesn’t take off, the team is already at the table ideating new ways to serve their market. As a small business, it’s possible to create that agility by both thinking strategically and investing in the right tools. Some questions to consider include:
- Does your company have the right technology foundation – including servers, network speed and security – to support the fast-moving strategy decisions you need to make?
- Do you periodically assess how ventures within your company are developing? Do you have business intelligence tools in place to help inform those decisions?
- Is your team trained to constantly evaluate new opportunities in the market?
While the day-to-day realities between a small business and high-growth tech startup may feel quite different, there are many ways you can capture key insights that have impacted the success of many startups. From investing in talent to optimizing your technology investments, thinking like a high-growth startup can kick your own trajectory into high gear.