You've raised your first round of funding and the check (or, more likely, the wire transfer) has been cut. Congratulations are in order! It's a lot of work getting investors on board with your idea and your plans for the future.
But now that we've got the warm fuzzies out of the way, here's a secret: congratulating someone on raising money is like congratulating a chef on buying ingredients. Sure, you've got the recipe for success, but the real artistry of building a company lies in the execution.
With that in mind, here are eight tips on how to move forward with confidence:
1. Invest in your investors.
During your fundraising process, you probably met dozens of potential investors from many different backgrounds and found people with the skills and commitment required to help you grow. Now, make sure your new relationship gets off on the right foot.
Get on the same page about how and when you'll want them to be involved. Set up a regular cadence for updates and check-ins so you stay connected and ready to engage when necessary. The early trust you build with your investors will go a long way.
2. Solidify your financial plan and goals.
Here's another secret: Fundraising goes in cycles, but it never really ends. The minute you complete one round isn't too soon to start thinking about when to begin your next raise and what milestones you'll need to achieve for it.
Make a plan to get to the next round with the capital you've just raised. Factor in potential risks and keep track of the metrics you'll need to show success.
3. Strengthen your organization.
With cash in hand, you're now in a position to attract better talent. Capitalize on this moment to build your executive team and make any necessary changes to your organizational structure that will set you up for growth and success.
Working with an internal recruiter and a people ops manager can be game-changers here--but keep an eye on the revenue-to-employee ratio and overall burn/employee rate.
It's common to hear that your team needs more headcount to accomplish things. Develop a solid process for determining what hires are "nice to have" versus "need to have." Fast-growing teams require additional internal communications to stay connected, so factor that work in too.
4. Define Your Culture.
A strong culture can set your company apart--it guides decision making, allows people to self-select in and out of your company, and is useful in hiring, performance reviews, and feedback, among other areas. It's your responsibility to set the tone and values for how business is conducted, so make sure they're abundantly clear from the start.
5. Establish a vision, mission, and strategy.
Outside of making sure you don't run out of money, establishing and reinforcing the company's vision, mission, and strategy is the CEO's most important job. It's not just a "one and done" type of deal--you have to communicate them over and over in order for them to really sink in.
You have to be the North Star--leading by example is critical, because it's what keeps the team engaged and accountable. Invest in your leadership team so they're also committed to your vision, mission, and strategy in their day-to-day interactions.
6. Get ready to scale yourself.
As CEO, your job is constantly changing. You'll confront new challenges and opportunities on the regular, and often at an overwhelming pace.
You're only human, and like everyone else who's been a CEO, there will be times when you'll have to admit what you don't know and hire to fill in the gaps. Consider getting a mentor or an executive coach who can help you develop your own leadership style and strategies for dealing with tricky situations when you feel out of your depth.
7. Stay focused.
Now that you have more money and more people involved in your company, it's easy to lose focus. Don't. Make sure you stick to your strategy--refer to it daily as part of a morning ritual, if you need to.
8. Scale out.
Finally, get ready to grow. Will you be scaling horizontally? Vertically?
You'll have to decide when to move upstream for customer maturity or invest in the next product. Keep your eye out for inflection points and be ready to move quickly to capitalize on opportunities as they arise. They say it's a marathon, not a sprint, but in my experience, sometimes you have to sprint during the marathon to get to the finish line.
That's enough to work on, right? Seriously, though, don't forget to celebrate! In any entrepreneurial venture, the wins (and losses, for that matter) come fast and furious. It's important to take a moment to appreciate it when your hard work pays off.