Forward Fortnightly Archive: Building a growth ready startup

December 6, 2021

Growing a business is hard. That little multiplier that forces a company to scale acquisition disproportionately to their team size changes everything.. To automate manual work. To recruit. And to specialise. It creates a great strain on a company’s people, culture and product.  A company has to ‘grow up’

We see recurring themes in the best businesses, in the market and in our portfolio. Resilience. Passion. Diversity. Strong cultures that support, inspire and promote transparency and collaboration. 

Resilience starts with the founder, but don’t do it alone. 

Few startups make it to a unicorn-level exit as a one trick pony. They need to adapt. To innovate. And that takes leadership and a workforce that can cope. 

Being a CEO founder can be a lonely business. Don’t forget to talk to friends, family, co-founders and professionals to build resilience for your business and your own wellbeing. 

Scaling takes more than great leadership. It takes empowerment. Psychological safety. In this report, McKinsey outlined that when employees feel comfortable to challenge the status quo, organisations innovate quicker, unlock the benefits of diversity and adapt well to change

The team matters.

Tom Eisenmann’s research into the why start-ups fail  uncovered a number of answers. No surprise - team (and extended team) is one of the most frequent. That’s you. Your Co-Founder. Your first hire. And you investors and board. Consider them carefully to improve your chances of success.

Diversity is a commercial imperative. 

Strong organisations might start with a founder, but the makeup of a team is critical for continued success. At Forward, we take the diversity of a team into account when we assess their potential for investment. It’s not just the right thing to do, the cultural diversity of a team has been found to correlate with higher returns and IP development.

Get the fundamentals for growth right. 

Growth is crucial for founders. But an organisation that can adapt, innovate and scale-up is key to creating lasting value. As you build, don’t forget to prepare for scale. 

The key to success, as we see it, is a growth mindset. Psychologist Carol Dweck set out to answer a simple question with her research - why some people reach their creative potential in business, while other equally talented peers do not. Her research concluded that a “growth mindset” that embraces the idea that their own abilities can expand over time are much more able to grow, develop and succeed. An organisation that encourages it - and combines it with an inclusive and diverse team will likely make better, more informed and considered decisions that shape their future

Building a growth-ready culture. 

You’re resilient. Your team is inclusive. Diverse even. But have you built a culture ready for high growth? Building a company that reaches for a higher purpose than revenue growth not only leads to better products. It’s also key to sustaining growth, especially as a company enters a scale-up phase. 

The early-stage magic that the best startups exhibit is often lost as a company scales. Why? They often focus on the processes and systems required to sell and serve more. But what about preserving the very essence you started with?  Ranjay Gulati  drew on experiences from big companies like Netflix to describe how maintaining a scaling company’s soul takes focus on business intent, customer connection, and employee experience to work. 

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December 6, 2021