For a startup fortunate enough to achieve initial product-market fit, the challenges are hardly over; rather, others arise in the form of scaling sales and support.
At the same time, product development continues in order for both feature development and improvement as well as to create additional offerings.
It’s non-stop: the addition of new features, products, customers, employees, and processes increases a company’s operational complexity and risk.
Two factors are vital to get over the hump of early scaling:
- A team with a high level of trust and coordination across key functions.
Startups invariably embrace “new” – whether it’s a novel business model, cutting edge technology, or innovations around sales and customer acquisition. This is where a startup’s focus and energy must be – not in dealing with avoidable mistakes related to HR, code management, accounting, routine legal matters, or the other day-to-day challenges of running a company.
This, by no means, is meant to minimize the importance of these functions. In fact, a mistake in any can have far-reaching and catastrophic consequences. However, simply having someone who understands the ins-and-outs of non-innovative business processes both reduces risk and allows for focus on where value creation for a startup lies.
When dealing with the “new” – rolling out a new set of functionality for the product, for example – it’s very much a team effort. Applying the three-legged stool analogy, here are the core functions which must be in sync:
- Product Management – the greatly underestimated, but mission-critical, role of market identification, specs (product design), feature prioritization and product strategy.
- Engineering – the magic of translating the product vision into actual product reality (i.e. making something that people will want to buy).
- Sales – not just finding willing buyers, but also understanding the realities and limitations around product development to ensure customer expectations are met.
A breakdown in any one leg of the stool can spell disaster.
In reality, the outsider’s perspective greatly oversimplifies (and glamorizes) startup life. Superficially, the focus is always on the single dimension of the “new”. In reality, there is so much that must happen behind the scenes.
At the end of the day, a startup’s success is driven less by the idea and more by team and execution.