Many business owners who have been in business for a few years scoff at the notion that they might still be a startup. Yet the fact remains: even if you’ve been in business for ten years, you could still be a startup.
Some of the great companies we know today considered themselves startups for years after they were profitable, largely because of the culture and hype. Google and Apple are great examples of this. However, being a startup for most companies isn’t a great thing, and frankly, it’s something you want to get beyond.
How to Know if You’re Still a Startup
The first way to know if you’re still a startup is to ask if any of the following defining characteristics apply to your business:
Defining Characteristics of a Startup:
To be a startup, you don’t have to have all of these characteristics. But if you find yourself thinking, “Hey, that’s me!” to any one of the following traits, you might still be a startup.
A startup typically has limited finds. At Business in Blue Jeans, we look at this characteristic first and foremost. If you’re still operating month-to-month, you’re still a startup. If lead generation is still a struggle, you’re still a startup. And if you’re a home-based business and struggling to make the business into a real full-time living, then you’re still a startup. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been in business for five, ten, or twenty years. If you’re operating on limited funds and the business isn’t self-sustaining, then you’re still a startup.
Most startups maintain a fairly flat organizational structure, meaning that everyone plays a role in decision making and you keep paperwork to a minimum. Certainly for some organizations, a flat structure is simply an inclusive way of doing business that allows everyone to feel fully invested and valued. But at the same time, flat management can be an indicator that you’re still a startup.
A low level of bureaucracy might also mean that you’re super efficient…or it might mean that you’re a startup that hasn’t yet defined clear processes and procedures.
Products and Services in Development
In a startup, products and services are still in flux, being developed, so if you’re still figuring out what you do and who you do it for, you’re probably still a startup. However, even established businesses create new products and services. When that’s the case, a single department of your business might be considered a startup. The entire company doesn’t have to be considered a startup.
What to Do to Go Beyond Startup Status
Okay, so you’ve discovered that you might still be a startup. What can you do to take your business beyond startup status?
First, you want to gain clarity around your corporate culture. Does a flat management style really work? Do you need to nail down some processes and procedures so your business can flow more effectively and customers and clients will be served better? And what products and services will you offer from here on out? Note that you don’t have to make final decisions, but you do want to get superbly clear on what you do and who you do it for, so that you can move beyond this level.
One of the great characteristics of a startup that I didn’t mention earlier is that everyone is working…hard. It’s the beginning and the last thing you want is to be one of the many businesses that fail. So you’re usually willing to do whatever it takes to make this thing happen.
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