By Keith Shields, CEO at Designli
Every startup needs some hustle. You’re moving quickly, learning and iterating. You have ideas that need to be implemented. And if you’re like me, you’re not always patient with your progress. It can be tempting to just sit down and crank out the work until your vision is blurry.
But this approach can lead to wasting resources. If you’re moving so quickly that you haven’t created a strategic plan based on actual research, you may spend money and time going down rabbit trails you didn’t need to. Or, worse, you may quickly end up in a place that’s not aligned with the market’s needs.
You need to harness your hustle to build a sustainable, smart business. Working smarter, not harder is the key to startup success. Here are three strategies we’ve implemented at my company in the last two years to help us (and our clients) do that.
1. Start with the end in mind.
It’s a cliché, but for good reason. When you begin with the end in mind, you know precisely where you’re headed. Of course, you want to stay open to new data that will inform your decisions and new ideas that will help streamline your journey. But knowing the exact problem you want to solve for a particular market segment will serve as a beacon to guide you on the way.
We start every client’s first for-hire meeting, aptly named the SolutionLab, on this question. We ask questions designed to get them thinking about the challenge their product will overcome and the change they want to create in their future customers’ world.
Knowing what problem you’re solving will keep you focused and help you create a product with a clearly defined place in the market. When the bright, shiny objects appear, you can more easily sort out which are ideas that will help you reach your goal and which are distractions that you need to say “not right now” to.
2. Narrow down your options.
It’s incredibly tempting to do all the things: Build out every feature you eventually want your product to have. Serve every market segment. Bring on every team member right away. But too much too soon is the fastest way to crash and burn.
Talk to your potential users to find out which features are most important to them. Find out the context in which they’ll be using your product. Then narrow down your dream features list to those most essential to solve the problem. Create a minimum viable product (MVP) that meets the market need exceptionally well and get it out into the marketplace for testing. Even though it doesn’t include all the desired features, a well-designed MVP will jumpstart your path to success. Then you can iterate based on feedback, and add more features as you get cash flowing.
In a similar way, pick one or two market segments to launch with. You can later expand to additional audiences, but getting it right with one or two will give you a firm foundation to build on.
And same with your team. Hire the best quality team members you can find, with the skills that match your precise needs. Too often, startups hire a lot of people quickly, without stopping to consider what skills they actually need or what qualities they want their team members to have. (Side note: Consider remote and offshore team members. We’ve found many of our top-quality team members outside the United States.)
3. Nail down your processes.
Processes make or break profitability. If you create streamlined processes and follow them, you’ll reduce waste and move more efficiently.
We’ve found standard operating procedures (SOPs) to be especially helpful. For every repeated task or project, we create an SOP that’s essentially a checklist of steps to be done. Having your processes defined in SOPs delivers several benefits:
- Reduce waste: You'll waste less time and money since you’re operating more efficiently.
- Quickly identify bottlenecks: When you know exactly how your processes are functioning, you can more quickly pinpoint where problems lie and fix them.
- Offer a better customer experience: Every customer will get the same high-quality experience.
Being the master of your hustle will help you build a better business that will last for the long-term. Smart planning, a steady focus and streamlined processes serve to keep you on the path to success.
Keith Shields is CEO at Designli, a digital product studio that helps entrepreneurs and startup-minded enterprises launch transformative apps and web-apps.