Startups come to life with enthusiasm, lots of coffee, and optimism. Long days and a heady sense that the work is important will carry the CEO and the small initial team through. Maybe that lasts until the first iteration of the product is released, or a little after that…
However, sooner or later, momentum will slow. New ideas don’t flow as freely. Customers start complaining. A few people leave to launch their own startup or to seek employment elsewhere. It’s at this point, the CEO begins to worry, perhaps for the first time.
How can startups keep the momentum alive when it’s lagging? And what should be done about the occasional business speed bump? Let’s discuss it.
Know When Momentum is Being Lost
As the CEO, it’s essential to get your head out of the clouds. Only this way can you see the reality for what it is today.
When employees aren’t as enthusiastic any longer, customers are starting to complain, and each business day is greeted with apprehension rather than anticipation, momentum has been lost.
Pause to let that sink in. Acceptance is useful as it’ll guide what will be needed to get it back. Otherwise, your startup could begin to resemble a stalled engine.
Get Honest About What’s Gone Wrong
What has slowed the positive momentum and progress evident before?
If you’re out of touch with how employees are feeling, it’s necessary to bridge that gap. Talk with select members of staff to get their view on things. Without their insights, any forthcoming changes won’t resolve the issues as they see them. Then morale will be badly affected. And that won’t help the situation.
Ask yourself where the problems lie? Is it an execution problem? Are the customers responding less than enthusiastically to the first look of the product before it’s launched? Or did it launch, and the reviews weren’t the greatest?
In a real sense, it’s not a lack of momentum that’s the concern – it’s the causes of it. After consulting with others, decide on a new course of action.
Reinvigorate the Team
Start with the managers. Run through your new plan of action for the startup.
See if your managers have substantive input they’d like to share about how the group can do better? This will allow some last-minute tweaks to be made. Then finalize the plan.
Communicate with the team openly and honestly. Discuss what’s been going right and what you see as the failings so far. Explain the new plan to get the spotlight back on this startup in a positive way. Have the managers discuss it and flesh out the details. This demonstrates that all the managers have bought into it.
Fix Problems Early to Avoid Losing Momentum, Again
Unexpected speed bumps, new problems, and old ones need to be fixed early and often. Leaving them outstanding solves nothing and can impede progress in key areas. It will also likely be an annoyance to some employees frustrated that these issues weren’t resolved sooner.
List the Problems. Work Through Them Individually
Make a list of the complications or difficulties that still exist. Decide who will be responsible for resolving each one. Track progress on each issue until it’s brought to a satisfactory conclusion. Assign more employees or bring in outside assistance, where needed.
Technical Problems Require More Time
Technical problems are fixed by identifying the best solution. Unfortunately, this sometimes requires iterating through several proposed solutions to determine the right course of action. This requires additional time.
For example, companies that have implemented voice-over-IP-protocol calling systems to reduce or eliminate PBX telephone system expenditures can suffer from ongoing VoIP troubleshooting difficulties. This can happen due to poor planning and inferior system implementation.
Listen to the Customer
Sometimes, air goes out of a startup’s sails because customers are voicing their opinion on the product or service. If it’s not all good news, then there’s work to be done.
Examine how you can take negative customer comments and other suggestions onboard to inspire new improvements. Don’t get disheartened. Customers often have inspiring ideas that didn’t occur to the team before. Use these to produce something better.
Reach for Bigger Goals
Employees need inspiration. If they’re not inspired by the startup’s goals, they’ll be less enthusiastic about working there.
Reset the goals to give the employees something to aim for. This doesn’t ignore the troubles that have come before. Dreaming bigger is necessary to help to restore lost momentum. This is how great things are achieved.
In an ideal world, startup life would be perfect. But that’s Hollywood, not reality. For most startups, pivoting to stay relevant or re-doubling their efforts to satisfy their customer’s expectations is to be expected. So, pull up a chair. There’s more work to be done.