Steering Your Startup Towards Success: 3 Simple Things to do Today

From day one, many founders create a purposeful mission for their business. However during the entrepreneurial journey,  the day-to-day distractions can often make you feel as though the boat is driving you. Sometimes, a quick reset is needed to ensure that you are continuing to steer your startup in the right direction; towards flawless execution, and customer happiness.

We'll lay out the What, Why & How of 3 Simple Things you can do to re-focus. This will apply to those mid-stage companies who have growing teams and are facing increasing customer demands. 

1. What? Make a "What's Keeping Me up at Night" List.

Why? If I have seen any common thread from founder to founder it's the pressure they put on themselves to do it all, and to do it all as fast as possible. There may be nothing you can do to change the constant feeling of pressure. But, you can become more productive in your approach by making a list of your biggest distractions, and shifting your focus to the right areas. 

How? Take some quiet time, whenever you can find 30 minutes (on the plane, at 2am, in between meetings) - and write:
+  3 things are taking up too much of my time
+  3 things I need to focus on more
+  3 things I need to eliminate doing tomorrow
+  3 things that are holding the company back

The Outcome: By staying focused on only the items above, you can start to create a punch list of things you NEED to focus on and things you DON'T. 

How to take the next step and cross things off the list? Now that the list is complete, create 3 columns next to each item on this list. Column 1 write: ST/LT (for Short Term and Long Term). Column 2 write: -/$ (for No revenue impact and revenue impact). Column 3 write:  A team member's name that can assist in taking on the tasks. If there is no one on your team, write *NEED TO HIRE. Now go through each item and prioritize the Short-Term/Revenue Impact Items that have your name it. 

Another benefit: Through this process, you'll start to recognize that you may not need to be everything, or do everything 'right now'.  In fact, the company can not thrive or move as swiftly if they are solely dependent on the founder to execute in all areas of the business. Remember to prioritize and re-reprioritze often, empower your leadership team and focus on where you personally can add the most value.

2. What? Crowdsource Your Mission. 

Why? Often the mission that you stated for your business in its pre-launch phase has evolved in practice, but remained on paper. Staying connected to the focus of your business should be a top priority, and there is no better way to connect than engaging with the front lines, your teams who experience customers, process and each other each day. 

How? Create an Internal Focus Group that is representative of various levels and team leads across Sales, Account Management, Product, Marketing etc. Ask them to write:
3 problems the company solves for customers
+ 3 ways the company does it better than competitors
+ 3 values the company embodies
+ 3 ways the feel the company will change the world for the better

The outcome: This process will be informative, enlightening and you may recognize that there is an opportunity to tailor the mission or realign with your teams. 

How will you know to modify the mission statement? 
If the common themes that arise in focus group demonstrate that your initial mission is way off the mark, or brings to the surface - new opportunities, you may want to take the data and re-evaluate how your company communicates its values and value to the external world. 

Another benefit: Founders who connect with their teams on a regular basis, to receive feedback, are more likely to have a realistic sense of the business strengths and weaknesses. This helps founders better forecast growth and steer the teams in the right direction.

2. What? Implement Bi-Annual Customer Surveys via a Net Promoter Score Method. (Net Promoter Score)

Why? There is nothing that will help you determine the health of your business better than getting direct feedback from your customers. Doing a survey on a bi-annual basis will help you rank and prioritize your product roadmap, and enhance your customer service offerings. 

How? There are many survey tools that are simple to utilize, such as Survey Monkey. It can take less than an hour to create the survey, upload your email list and customize your message. When determining what questions to ask, keep it short and simple. Don't ask any question that you don't plan on addressing in the future. Sample questions for NPS are here: NPS Survey Template

The Outcome? Sending a survey to your customers shows that you care about their happiness and are invested in making improvements.  

How to react to customer feedback? Firstly, thank customers for sharing, secondly, make sure to track feedback in your CRM tool, and most importantly assign ownership to a capable team member who can act as the internal stakeholder responsible for developing an action plan of how to address customer issues.