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Startups can often be summed up in two words: overcommitted and understaffed. Even after you find your footing, things rarely change. After all, the moment your business starts to realize its potential, goals grow in significance and pressure mounts in response.
Naturally, you start to scale. You hire additional staff, move offices and market like crazy. But this isn’t the answer. In fact, Startup Genome found that 70 percent of startups scale prematurely, which may be why 90 percent of startups fail.
What you should be looking at is your approach. A shift to a more agile mindset can enable your startup to get more done, and the reason comes down to one of its main tenets: collaboration, not silos. Agile teams have multiple stakeholders who work together on projects in real time. No one is left waiting for something to move through a chain of contributors. Approvals are made on the spot.
According to a study by Harvard Business Review, more frequent collaborations led to “positive spillover of information, insights and team dynamics” from one project to the next. What’s more, the study found that when collaborating virtually, people seem to share in the workload equally. It’s also better to keep the number of collaborators to a minimum — too many cooks, after all.
This isn’t to say an agile approach will cure all that ails you. However, it can help achieve a few goals that you might have thought were out of reach, including:
1. Cultivating true work-life balance
Coming home at a decent hour can be a struggle for those in the startup space. There’s an expectation that you’re “always on” — and that may very well be true. But if you build projects within a scrum-like system, you can time-box deliverables and gauge the pace required for completion. This, in turn, can help you manage commitments and allow you to clock out at a reasonable hour.
Netflix is a great example of a company that has mastered this tactic. It believes people are fully capable of using their own judgment when it comes to their work lives. Instead of focusing on processes, Netflix emphasizes freedom. For example, it offers employees unlimited vacation and parental leave, and its policy surrounding travel, gifts, and expenses is summed up simply: “Act in Netflix’s best interest.” It also takes great strides to make all meetings as efficient as possible by expecting people to come in with a prepared agenda, set firm start and end times, etc., so team members don’t feel like they’re wasting time.
2. Launching multiple marketing campaigns at once
It can feel nearly impossible to launch multiple marketing campaigns at one time. Startups run lean, after all. But by focusing on the agile marketing concept that "simplicity is essential," you can pare down big ideas and promote more than one initiative in a cycle. In fact, "The State of Agile Marketing Report" found that nearly 37 percent of marketers have already adopted some form of agile marketing.
Break out ideas into smaller chunks, and find ways to bucket similar tasks such as copywriting or design. That way, you can go to market faster and optimize your creative energy. Also, work with other team members from different departments to gut test ideas and leverage campaigns across their networks. This can prevent you from falling prey to the communication obstacle that plagues 59 percent of U.S. workers, according to Atlassian.
3. Gathering truly honest customer feedback
Feedback is your greatest resource for improvement. The biggest challenge for those in the startup space, though, is gathering enough feedback to make a difference. To bypass this, implement a build-measure-learn feedback loop. It puts a process in place to sift through the information, gain insights and design next steps for future product stages.
If you’re not familiar with the build-measure-learn loop, the concept is quite simple. Gather insights from users to develop a problem statement, and then ideate on potential solutions until you form a hypothesis to test. Update the product, and start the process again.
Glossier took great care to incorporate customer feedback into its business model, going so far as to integrate customer service into the rest of the organization — including the product development department. Feedback has shaped its product line and is still used to improve its offerings. In fact, the company even has a Slack channel where 100 of its most loyal customers can provide honest feedback on new products.
In order to build for the future, companies need to scale at a slow and steady pace. An agile approach gives you the time and room necessary to make this possible. You don’t need to rush things in the startup space — good things come to those who wait.
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December 6, 2018 at 09:39AM