Founding, managing and growing a tech startup is a BIG commitment. For most startup owners, it will take years to build a customer following, turn a profit and create a truly scalable business. It’s a journey that can sometimes be pressurised, stressful and risky. – But when your plan really does come together, there is the chance of real success, a lasting legacy and a business that delivers on your initial dream.
So, how do you know when you’ve truly achieved your goals for the startup?
Has the startup met its growth targets and scaled up as intended?
You’ll have seen your startup idea grow from being a fledgling startup, to an established business and on to become a scaled-up, ambitious enterprise with a solid customer base.
If you’ve met these growth targets, then you know you’re on pretty solid ground as a business. Your idea clearly has legs and you’re delivering a product and/or service that your customers see as valuable – and which they’re willing to part with their hard-earned cash to purchase.
Are you running a profitable enterprise that’s in good financial shape?
Running a tight financial ship is crucial. You need solid revenues, positive cashflow and good liquidity to keep your startup ticking over.
In the early days of being a startup, cash will have been tight. And your own personal income as a founder and director will probably have been scarce too. But as the business has become more established, you should have found that your business revenue became more stable and predictable – and that your own personal wealth also followed this same reliable pattern. If the business has a solid balance sheet, great cashflow and meets your intended profit targets, you’re onto a good thing – and can be sure that your financial position is in good shape.
Do you have a stable customer base who says good things about you?
Without customers, you don’t have a viable business. Finding your first customers as a startup was probably a significant turning point in your journey. A good customer base brings with it the bonus of new sales, fresh revenues and a business that can actually turn a profit.
When customers engage with you and buy your goods and services, that confirms your original faith in your business idea. You’re providing something they value and want to purchase, and you’re also building a community of like-minded people who all think your brand is great.
Do you have a team who can operate the business without you?
In the early days, you’ll probably have become a jack (or jill) or all trades. You’ll have run the sales and marketing campaigns, taken care of all the main operational tasks and dealt with the many invoicing, accounting and bookkeeping tasks. Turn the clock forward, and you probably have a team of people around you to take care of these jobs – but could they function with you?
This is really the acid test of whether you’ve scaled and succeeded. If the business is still reliant on you, personally, you have a problem. A business needs to function effectively without the founder being a commercial proposition. If not, you’ll never be in a position to sell up. To make this possible, you need a team of engaged and talented people around you – people who share your vision and talents and who can keep the ship on an even course, even once the original captain has set sail on fresh, new adventures.
Do you feel you’ve achieved what you wanted to achieve?
In your formative years as a founder, you’ll have sat down to draw up a startup plan. In that plan, you’ll have outlined a clear vision for what this business was going to achieve.
This vision might have been:
- To scale up over five years, sell-up and retire
- To deliver a new kind of technical widget and make it the global standard
- To help your target audience improve their lives, helped by your product/service
- To provide the income needed for you to live your desired lifestyle
- To plough your profits back into the local community and be a force for good.
We all have different goals, and whether they are financial, personal or moral comes down to the individual. The important thing at this point is to assess whether you’ve actually met the vision that you set out to achieve. If your aim was to sell for a profit and then retire, are you ready to do this? If the goal was to become a household name and move your sector forward, do your customer engagement figures and market share stats reflect this?
Deep down, only you and your fellow founders know whether you’ve truly met your intended goal. But if the general consensus is that you aced it, then it’s time to think about the future.
What’s the next chapter in your startup story?
If you can answer yes to all five of these questions, then congratulations! You’ve built a successful, stable and profitable business.
But what do you do now? Do you continue to plough this fertile furrow and live off the profits? Do you find a buyer for the existing business and start on your next business idea? Or do you sell up and look at retirement and enjoy the benefits of your money and lifestyle?
It’s a good idea to talk to us before you make what is, essentially, a life-changing decision. If you’d like to talk through your options, do get in touch.