In this day and age, start-ups are not only ubiquitous but also constantly expected to justify their funding and meet investors’ expectations as early as a few months in. My company did not follow that model. I started Paessler on my own back in 1997. It has since grown to include 160 employees worldwide, serving over 150,000 users in more than 170 countries every day. These are my top tips for both stimulating growth in the early days of a company and staying agile in an uncertain and constantly shifting marketplace.
Stay focused – Stay on track by concentrating on one product, and one product alone. This way you won’t become distracted or dilute your core business. Instead, your employees will have clear cut goals and responsibilities. Think of Uber, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Airbnb, Dropbox, Spotify and Slack as successful examples of this tried and tested rule. Staying focused doesn’t mean you aren’t constantly striving to improve! Agility is the key here as you must endeavour to improve your product in a way that will benefit all – and not just some – of your customers.
Satisfy your clients – by first managing expectations, and keeping future plans private. Also make sure you’re prioritising your users’ requests over paying too much attention to your competitors’ progress.
Need help differentiating between good or bad customer requests? Use the following guidelines to help you out:
- Scope– What is the reach of this change? How many customers will benefit from the new feature?
- Impression– How likely is this change to excite my users? Will they be happy? Relieved?
- Benefits– Will this truly affect my customers’ continued use? In other words, is it necessary for my product going forward?
- Trouble– How much work will it require? How many days do developers need to research, create, develop and test this new feature?
Find the right fit – Make sure you recruit people who want to become an integral part of your company and are therefore inclined to play an active role in it. The best way to go about making the right hires is to involve the entire team in the process. This helps foster long term – and hopefully enjoyable – working relationships.
Pace Yourself – preferably while you still have another source of income. Being a one man band means you will have to be hands-on and involved in every aspect of the business, from developing ideas to handling IT. On the bright side, this will allow you to steadily secure knowledge of all the departments within your business, which you’ll need when it’s time to expand. Another benefit of starting off slow is the independence you will initially have from stakeholders and the daunting risk of a burn rate.
When starting a new business, it’s easy to get carried away and try to do everything at great speed, but adopting a more considered approach can actually pay dividends, helping lay the foundations to long-term success.
Dirk Paessler is CEO of Paessler, an IT monitoring specialist based in Nuremburg, Germany.