There are many variables that measure the success of a successful company - whether startup or established. The most important of which is customer demand and the growth that demand inspires. When a young company scales, habits grow with it. Some habits are good to keep, but others are worth breaking. Striking the right balance helps to create conditions for continued growth. Based on my years of experience in the eCommerce industry and watching many great brands such as Adore Me, Birchbox, and vineyard vines grow their bottom line, here are five habits to either keep or break in order to drive your brand's success.
1. Do Keep Things Simple
When you started your business, you were personally invested in every new design and customer. Your personal and professional lives were probably connected in a very concrete way. As your business grows, it's easy to get caught up in the business of running the business and to lose touch with the needs and preferences of your customer. Focus groups are not always the answer, either -especially for emerging brands. Try to remember why you started your business in the first place. Be where your customer is, at their events, on their blogs, or at their offices. Try to hold onto the sense of camaraderie that first brought your team together. Having layers for the sake of layers seldom helps a brand remain agile.
2. Do Focus on Your Culture
As you grow, stay mindful of the culture elements that are important to you and your customer. An aligned team is just as important as your product or technology. As organizations scale, teams must be informed and empowered to choose options that support your vision. A culture that defines and rewards alignment with core values ultimately creates a team that can learn to function with less supervision. Whether updating your company's vision, or giving your employees ownership over specific tasks and responsibilities, actively design opportunities to include your team in all aspects of company culture.
3. Do Set Aside Time to Learn About your Changing Company
During periods of early and rapid growth, you will likely spend more time in meetings or on the road visiting stores, surveying new locations, and checking in with production teams. Find the time to think about all the moving parts of your company. It's always a smart investment of time to solicit feedback from your team. As you become less involved with day-to-day operations, your employees can provide valuable workplace insights beyond your own high-level understanding or assumptions. That openness can provide opportunities to absorb positive changes and to correct activities that are out of alignment with your own values or priorities.
4. Don't Be Afraid to Work With Partners
While you might have started out handling every component of the business on your own, there is little to be gained burning resources in order to reinvent the wheel in terms of order management, packaging design, and shipping. We've seen many well-established organizations lose touch with their customer when real estate deals, unrelated acquisitions, system failures, or other similar distractions take resources away from customer experience. Looking outside of your team for solutions is another necessary step toward responsible growth. While you once might have worried about turning out the lights at night or managing the amount of tape used on each package, a qualified partner should handle these types of concerns so you can find new ways to dazzle your customers.
5. Don't Assume Bigger Means Less Innovation
This topic neatly sums up the payoff for attending to those before it. If you have stayed close to your customer, learned to hire, train, and trust, you can challenge your own assumptions about what your company is evolving into. If you focus on the innovations that matter and outsource those that don't, then regardless of how big you've become, you have set up the conditions for continued innovation. For example in the eCommerce world, creative people are seldom masters at managing inventory or at managing those that are. As you scale, you need to find ways to keep focused on your customer. If you can do that, you can innovate at any size.
Over time, you can grow too attached to the way things are and miss when habits sour. That's why regularly scheduled feedback from your team and partners is a worthwhile investment. With those investments, and attention to this list, you can assess your company's chances of thriving at the end of the next growth spurt.
For more specific insights on other keys to business success, check out our EMERGE ebook series.