Building strong for long-term growth: 5 strategies for startups

Don't get caught up in building your company fast for speed's sake, writes theCut's Kush Patel.

theCut helps barbers schedule appointments via app.

(Courtesy photo)

This is a guest post by Kush Patel, cofounder and CTO of D.C. startup theCut.

When my cofounder and I were building our business, we knew early on that we didn’t have the resources to move as fast as others in our space, so we had to move smart.

There’s value in both: Just because you’re not building fast doesn’t mean you’re not doing the right things for your business. Based on our experience growing our company that manages a technology platform for barbershops, theCut, to 2 million users, here are five things you can do to build in a strong way that will set you and your company up for long term success.

1. Get clear about product-market fit.

A major downside to building fast is you’re constantly pivoting, constantly in go-go-go mode, and I see a lot of companies not spending enough time on one idea to see it to fruition. A lot of times, it comes down to you actually having a great product but you’re not getting it out to the right customers.

2. Understand that not all feedback is good feedback — or feedback you must act on.

While all feedback is valuable, not all of it is actionable. Select the right feedback to act on that is pushing your product or company in the right direction. Constantly reacting to customer or user feedback leads to so many founders losing focus and spreading themselves too thin.

[Editor’s note: Check out this recent guest post from Upside Business Travel’s Scott Case for a different take on listening to your customers.]

3. Find the right feature cadence.

Feature fatigue is a thing. I’ve seen many companies that have rolled out feature after feature without giving each one the time it needs to gain a stronghold with users. If you’re constantly pushing out features, you’re not spending the right amount of time marketing to users or tweaking based on user feedback. For instance, if your product or service is aimed at an older demographic, they may not be comfortable with you making constant changes to something they’ve already become familiar with. Ask yourself, ‘What is the right cadence for our customers and our particular demographic’?

4. Build frameworks that evolve with your business.

When you’re moving fast, you aren’t really able to build up long-term frameworks and ways of thinking. Every product you build might require some kind of internal process change — how you approach things from a business development, customer support or even product design standpoint. It’s important to develop frameworks that can evolve with your business over the long term.


5. Know early on when to pivot.

Knowing when is the right time to pivot is crucial for the success of any SMB. But finding the right balance can take time. This is why it’s important to factor this into your planning process from the get-go — “If we get to X point and we aren’t seeing results, this is when we should reevaluate.”

Oftentimes, it’s a game-time decision. But thinking through which data points might indicate that you’re doing the right thing, but something isn’t sticking, is crucial for any SMB. Knowing beforehand when to make a switch ahead of time vs. when you’re in the weeds and you’re already deeply invested will help you think more clearly. Come up with checkpoints early on so you can look at things more objectively.

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