You’ve barely seen friends and family since you decided to take the plunge into entrepreneurship. Your waking moments have been devoted to building, tweaking, fundraising, networking … whatever you had to do to get your startup off the ground. You’ve subsisted on so much microwavable mac and cheese that you swear your skin is turning a light yellow. And you can’t remember the last time you had a great night’s sleep.
No one said startup life would be easy, but it’s all been worth it because you did it. You finally received funding. Toss the confetti and bring out the booze, because you’ve reached the finish line. You’ve made it.
But not really.
Sorry to burst your bubble. But getting funding is not the be all, end all of your startup journey. Now I’m not saying that you shouldn’t celebrate. You’ve worked hard, so now you get to play hard. But after you thank your team by taking them out for drinks and thank your customers for helping you get to the next step, it’s time to start hustling again.
Running a startup is kind of like playing video games. Before you received funding you were on level one. You didn’t have a lot of tools and you might even have died a few times (in the video game sense, of course). But you made it. Now that you’re on the second level, you have more health and armor. The journey will still be tough, but at least you’ll have some desperately-needed resources.
So what comes next?
Learn How to Hire a Great Team
When you first get funding, your to-do list is a mile long, making hiring and everything that comes with it an afterthought. So you end up hiring your second cousin who (shocker!) winds up not being a good fit. Now you’ve got to fire a family member and will probably have to hear about it for the next 10 Christmases. Avoid this predicament by making hiring a priority. After all, a startup is only as great as its team.
Focus your hiring process
If you haven’t already, determine your brand’s culture and values. Once you’ve figured that out, you can seek candidates that align with those values and culture. You’ll end up hiring people who you’ll like working with (and vice versa) and who will stay for the long haul.
Just make sure your culture is inclusive. If your startup screams Boys’ Club, then there’s an entire group of people who might feel excluded and probably won’t even apply.
Stay away from office drones
In addition to looking for people who have the skills to excel in whatever roles you need to fill, also look for qualities that will help strengthen your company as you grow. You don’t need an entire office of yes (wo)men. It also helps to have people who are just as passionate as you, so that they’re as much invested in the company’s success as you are.
It takes one to know one
Originality attracts quality candidates. Forget asking for the traditional resume and cover letter. They are boring and are hardly the best ways to get to know a candidate. Instead, create an application that captures the spirit and culture of your brand and asks insightful questions. (Hint: Asking people about their greatest weakness is not insightful; it just gives them license to bullshit).
Graduate from the Early-Stage Mindset
Now that you’re scaling your business, you need to change your mindset when it comes to the organization of your startup. Certain practices that are okay when you’re a small team bouncing from cafe to cafe in search of WiFi, aren’t as effective when you’re working with a team of 50 or 100.
The larger your team, the more structure that needs to be put in place. Often the main reason startups get poor Glassdoor reviews is because they still act like they’re early-stage even when they have 300 employees. You can have structure and accountability and still be cool. And the lack of chaos helps you keep that amazing team you just hired.
Employees need to feel like they can bring up ideas, no matter how crazy. That’s where true innovation comes from – the ability to take risks. Employees can’t take risks if they feel like they can’t talk to the CEO or if they feel like whenever they do something wrong, they’re at risk of being fired.
Learn from others’ experiences
The 3D printing startup MakerBot secured a great amount of funding and scaled quickly. But as they grew, it was difficult to maintain the same set of values upon which the company was founded.
For example, as Technically Brooklyn reported, Michael Curry, a MakerBot designer, “says he became troubled by how much more slowly the company moved as it grew up. Then its abandonment of the open source principles MakerBot was founded on seem to shake him. Finally, after the acquisition, he seems to feel it has come to be too much, describing the toll a startup can take on a person.”
Unfortunately for MakerBot, these challenges were chronicled in a Netflix documentary for the entire world to see. Your growing pains most likely won’t be captured on film, but employees talk, especially disgruntled ones. And it’s nearly impossible to attract top-tier talent if you have a negative work environment.
Keep It Lean and Focus on Execution
With funding comes expectations. But with all the excitement that money brings, it can be easy to forget the specific stipulations your investors provided when they funded your startup. That can be a problem if you want to get more funding in the future. Delivering on expectations is what separates the successful startups from the unsuccessful ones.
The time for making it rain will come later
After bootstrapping for what seems like an eternity, it can be tempting to spend any money that you can get your hands on. But remember how hard you worked and all you sacrificed to get this money. Use that to motivate you to be conservative with your finances.
Make a plan
Creating a detailed plan for your expenses will make you look responsible in the eyes of your investors. And having a plan will help you prioritize your expenditures and avoid overspending on things you don’t need. If you want to secure more financing in the future and ensure your startup is in it for the long haul, spend wisely.
Stay on track
You want to instill confidence in your investors, instead of making them wonder why they saw potential in you in the first place. So make goals and meet them. Give your investors a plan of what the first three to four months will look like and then go out and make it happen. It’s easier said than done, but not impossible. Just remember not to overextend yourself. When it comes to setting goals, ask yourself if they are sustainable. This will prevent you from biting off more than you can chew.