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Start-Ups Need to Focus on Two Kinds of Growth

Do you know how to scale your start-up? Chances are you're not focused on the right kind of growth.

When it comes to growth, start-ups need to think more precisely. 

Growth is such a vague term, said Donna Boyer, chief product officer at Blurb, an ebook start-up, during the Dell Women's Entrepreneurs Network conference on Tuesday.

"There are really two types of growth--one is the more type of growth, which is really about scale. And you need to add countries, customers, call centers. How do you make what you are doing, just bigger? And the other side of growth is really new. We need to get into new market, into new business units."

Many start-ups don't identify what kind of growth they're working toward. Instead, they just aim for "growth." 

But Boyer says you have to call it what it is. In Blurb's case, that's meant focusing on new growth in the ebook market, which in turn meant adjusting their metrics.  

"As the industry changes, you need to keep up with what your metrics are, and make sure you are measuring the right thing because behaviors follow," she said. 

Be forwarned, this can hamper a founder. As companies move through stages of growth, there might be a need for a turn-around, or what Boyer calls "a second wind." 

"You get to the scale stage, and you start doing these unnatural acts, because you have to grow and scale," she said. "And little by little, you start to depart. And when little by little you depart, you end up in a situation where the owner is misaligned with the company."

But taking the time to understand their vision will make that transition easier. "If you can keep a founder in, your growth will actually be faster, as long as you can keep it aligned." 

Her strategy's worked: Blurb's founder, Eileen Gittins, is still in charge of the company. 

Last updated: Jun 5, 2013


Jana Kasperkevic is a graduate of Baruch College, City University of New York, where she earned a bachelors degree in Journalism and Political Science. She covers start-ups, small businesses, and entrepreneurship for Inc. Her work has appeared in The Village Voice, InvestmentNews, Business Insider, and Houston Chronicle, among others. She lives in Brooklyn.

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