I have worked with quite a few startups, each of varying sizes. The thing that I’ve noticed consistently with each startup: they moved and adapted to change faster when they were smaller. While this is simple to understand, it tends to be forgotten as the startup grows their business.
John C. Maxwell says “One Is Too Small a Number to Achieve Greatness.” John is correct – it is very difficult to achieve success by yourself. You need more than yourself to build a successful business. It may require a business partner to complement your skills, service partners that help with web design, software development, accounting, and business law. It may be channel partners that help distribute your product.
The downfall I’ve seen with many startups is that they fail to see their potential at the smaller business size. Instead, they opt to keep hiring, keep growing, keep adding. Ultimately, they reach a business size that they can’t sustain and start to lose employees or lay them off.
Every business has a sweet spot for size, often smaller than they think. It is at this sweet spot where you have the right number of people, the right skill sets, and the right customers. Too few and you can successfully handle the possible growth necessary to be profitable. Too many and the people hired may lack necessary skill sets but are hired anyway.
Finding your startup’s sweet spot requires constant assessment. Take some time every business quarter and evaluate where you are at and where you are trying to go. Find ways to make each person more effective, allowing them to achieve more with less. Watch how the team interacts and how your startup culture develops.
It takes a lot more thought, focus, and effort to change the direction of a big company with lots of people than a smaller company with a few people. Find your startup’s sweet spot for size, focus on keeping it healthy, and grow your business.