Published by Forbes Nonprofit Council June 21, 2016
Written by Pamela Hawley
These days, being coined a “startup” seems to make a company more appealing to job seekers and investors alike. Whether or not you’re familiar with the startup culture, you probably know how challenging it is for one to be successful — just look at the Startup Genome Report. So, congratulations to all the entrepreneurs who have taken their first big leap!
As my organization UniversalGiving® was founded in 2002, I consider us to be past the enticing startup phase, and to be eating, breathing and sleeping in what I call “Continue Mode.” This is the stage where a company finds its bearing and continues to create even more valuable content; it’s about perseverance and fortitude. As entrepreneurs, we commit to caring about our company well beyond its startup phase.
Once you manage to get your company through logistical challenges, have continually balanced your finances, created a positive company culture, and effectively managed to retain employees, you too will find yourself in “Continue Mode.” Here’s how to get your company to that stage.
Keep Costs Down
One of the most important factors in ensuring your company’s longevity is your commitment to keeping costs down. Don’t rest on your laurels. Keep caring about how each dollar is spent on day one as much as on day 1,000. At UniversalGiving, we’ve implemented large and small strategies for cutting costs such as reusing folders and repurposing marketing materials. Furthermore, we foster relationships with incredible pro-bono software developers and lawyers. It also means foregoing impulsive spending on things your company wants but doesn’t actually need. In short, always have your head in the game, and be diligent about finding cost-effective solutions.
Grow Your Network
Accumulating clients is probably the biggest challenge that any company faces. It’s simply hard to cultivate new business, especially if you don’t have a client portfolio to reference. But, you can make this situation work to your advantage by doing a lot of research on who your best clients might be. Get to know them well and find out what their greatest needs are. In essence, be of value to them. If your efforts are sincere, they will translate into long-term business in the future.
For me, that meant modeling my organization as a free service for international giving and volunteering. As well, I made it available for everyone – high school students, moms, Kenyan relief workers, etc. UniversalGiving also serves its Fortune 500 corporate clients by providing customized services to scale their corporate social responsibility programs worldwide. Its team derives 80% of its income this way, creating a sustainable revenue stream driving its long-term growth as an organization.
Choose The Right Work Environment
As the 2014 Harvard Business Review article, “Balancing ‘We’ and ‘Me‘” highlights, open-floor-plan workspace “can foster collaboration, promote learning, and nurture a strong culture.” So, take the time to choose an environment that will help you and your team succeed more rapidly. This will drive communication and result in better relationships. While individual office spaces have their advantages, I have found that industry collaboration and individual networking are fostered more acutely in a coworking space. It encourages an inclusive and engaging work environment that you may not have access to during the early stages of your company. While obtaining the right work environment may seem like a lesser concern, it will improve the quality of work, ultimately bettering the entire company.
There are many facets that go into starting an organization and getting to “Continue Mode.” It won’t happen overnight, and don’t expect it to. You must be committed for the long run to build an enduring product and service.
Over the years, I pressed onward by taking it step by step. Commit to making it, and you will too. As entrepreneurs, we burn with passion for our vision, but nobody will ever encourage you more than you to make it a reality. You may never get to a state where you can say that you have fully “made it” because there is always something more that you can do to better achieve your goals and improve your company. So, enjoy the journey, and take comfort in the fact that your startup phase is temporary. The only reason you fail to take that next step is if you decide not to do so. Decide to persevere, and kick it into “Continue Mode” today.