5 Ways to Ditch the Bootstraps for Your Late-Stage Startup

Eating cheap food whenever you have a spare moment, working in an abandoned warehouse or your garage, and using just about anything as office furniture.

These are just a few signs that you were, or are, an entrepreneur building a true startup. A decent idea and a whole lotta gusto was all you had – and really, all you needed. Your hustle was strong, and results followed.

Now, things are different. You’ve got your own space, with a real-life office chair… although you’re probably still only eating when you have that rare, spare second. But there’s no denying that your startup has grown into a full-fledged business.

As you move into this new phase of responsibility and respectability, you don’t want to lose the passion, the enthusiasm, the agility that made your startup so incredible. And there are definitely some excellent qualities that startups foster – many of which should continue on throughout your brand’s history.

But there are also a few habits that you should let go of – as well as some new ones worth adding to your toolkit.

If you’re ready to shake off the dead weight and focus on what it takes to lead your company into new territory, these are our top five ways to shake things up.

1. It’s time to stop bootstrapping

To classify yourself as a “late-stage startup” means you’ve got a product and have a decent idea of your market. Scale can’t be far behind!

The best way to effectively scale is to start spending some money wisely. Maybe you’ve just had a round of funding come your way, or maybe you’re raking in the profits. Either way, it’s officially time to stop bootstrapping.

In fact, it’s taking the straps off those boots that can equal real growth – and change your mindset from building something useful to building a brand around your useful stuff. Obviously, frugality still matters. You should never start rolling out corporate Bentleys or paying for lobster buffets in the office, but here are a few ways that spending cash will benefit your business:

● Hiring (more on this further down)
● Growth marketing experimentation
● Video marketing (explainer videos, onboarding, etc.)
● Equipment (lose the duct taped Macbook already)
● Culture builders (employee benefits, snacks, put in that awesome slide or espresso machine)

Okay, maybe you don’t need the slide or the Nespresso, but the point is that you should start judiciously spending money on the people, the processes, and the environment that will help your company keep on growing.

2. Pull the plug

It’s so common for a startup to end up selling something completely different than what they originally planned. That’s part of the process. What matters is your ability to step back, recognize the need to pull the plug on certain projects, and focus on what’s working.

Here’s a great post from Forbes on how to “fail fast”.

Interesting: Twitter started as a podcasting company and now it’s the world’s leading complaint forum (just kidding:).

3. Open Your Eyes

The startup process is less about focusing on the competition and more about being different than others similar to your product. This focus is an excellent way to develop your unique value and really drive your growth.

Once you’re ready to communicate that unique value, that’s when you should really study the competition.

Warning: You should not become a paranoid. Dwelling on the competition and questioning every decision you make will limit innovation and kill the future of your brand.

To help you keep balance, we’ve found a great post that has compiled the thoughts of 28 founders specifically on the subject of competition. Check it out.

4. Slow down

In between startup and full blown growth company there is a small, but crucial moment to breathe. No, we’re not telling you to take a vacation with your VC money. What we do want to encourage you to do is take a look at all of your current users/clients.

When you are ready to bust out the growth hacking playbook, slow down and look at the current processes your new customers go through when first accessing the product. Ask yourself a few questions:

● How is the customer experience?
● What is the onboarding process?
● How many people stop using our products each month (churn)?

If you take the time and give it an honest look, you’ll come away with holes that can be plugged before you start seeing that hockey stick on the charts.

Here’s a great guide from Drip about customer onboarding.

5. Hire More Better

It’s time to put away your hat collection. Maybe you filled the roles of finance guy/gal, lead developer, CEO, coffee maker, and a few (dozen) more.

If you want your company to fully move past the startup phase, it’s time to hire. Effectively, your primary role should be recruiter and that should arguably never end. It’s important to fully define your company’s value set and culture you’re trying to achieve. It’ll clarify the hiring process.

Hiring is an enigma. Your company can’t experience heavy growth without a quality team, but if done poorly, the rate of your growth will slow dramatically.

The general consensus amongst some of the best talent gatherers is hire slow and fire fast. Wearing the hats until you have a quality fit while being ready to put it back on will keep your culture between the ditches.

Check out this helpful hiring post from Fast Company.

How About Your Tips?

Now that you’ve heard our top five ways to shake up your company for the better, it’s time to hear what you have to say. Let us know what you’re doing to shake off the “startup” mantra without losing the valuable mindsets that come with it.

What are you doing to move your business to the next level?

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