Entrepreneurs, especially first-timers, have a knack for getting caught up in startup myths. These include, among others: Find your growth hack, you have to get venture funding, spend money to make money, move to Silicon Valley. These can all help in the right context, but if I’ve learned one thing as a successful serial entrepreneur, it’s that there’s no silver bullet to growing your startup
There are, however, plenty of less exciting rules to follow that will actually lead you to growing your business. How fast it grows is up to you. I’ll touch on that below, too. These five steps to hypergrowth without funding that I’m about to share with you have been the foundation of all our work at Text Request. They’re what have enabled us to become a Fastest Growing Company (#335 on the most recent Inc. 5000 list) and a Best Place to Work honoree multiple times, all without taking a single penny of outside investment
Ignore the myths, follow these principles, and sprinkle your own unique mission on top. You’ll create a fast-growing company where people love to work and that customers would sorely miss if you left.
- Make other people more money.
This is specific to B2B, and it’s all about product-market fit. If your market doesn’t want what you’re selling, there’s no point in you existing. If they do want (more importantly, need) what you have, then the only real barrier to growth is how well you can supply that demand. And occasionally you’ll need to pivot, because what you thought your market wanted was wrong. But that’s OK. That’s good. It means you’re listening and providing what your customers need.
Text Request started as a messaging tool for hospitality. Customer service. We found pretty quickly that businesses don’t want to pay for customer service. They view it as a cost center, not a money maker. Then we found that home service companies really needed a texting service to follow up with leads and schedule services. They were happy to pay for anything that would make them more money. So we pivoted our time, attention and product road map in that direction. It worked.
Your product or service needs to enable your business customers to make money by solving a problem they experience daily. Do that, and you’ll become a must-have, not just a nice-to-have. It will also give you room to charge more, and you’ll appreciate that later on.
- Do the small things right.
Do the small things well, and the big things will take care of themselves. Build a product or service that works reliably every time. Answer customers’ calls, emails and texts in a reasonable-to-them time frame. Create content that’s valuable to customers, and answers their questions. Ask for the sale on the call. Keep SEO best practices in mind when writing web copy.
We call this “blocking and tackling.” The focus is not on obsessing over details. It’s focused on doing the basics right. It doesn’t matter how grand your vision is or how unique your product is without a foundation of serving your customers well, a reliable product and treating your people right.
- Talk to your customers again and again.
Market research is valuable. It can also be expensive and time-consuming, and you still may not get the answers you need to start and grow your business (although it can sometimes come in clutch). What I find to be even more effective is to talk to your customers over and over and over.
Have 100 customer conversations about the problem they’re experiencing that you’re trying to solve, and you will know what you need to build or provide. Get direct feedback from those customers on what you’ve built for them, and you will know what improvements are most important for you to focus on.
It’s not rocket science, but it is fuel to power your business forward. Because when you nail this, and consistently build those customer relationships that you can always come back to, you will have created an incredible foundation for hypergrowth. This is what you can leverage to earn customer referrals, to expand accounts, and build a reputation to grow on.
- Test it for free before putting dollars behind it.
Every decision to spend money on your business—sales, hiring, marketing, product development—is a bet. Before you have significant traction, it’s not worth the risk to bet BIG. So instead, try acquiring customers for free, and try everything reasonable you can think of to grow value in their eyes.
Cold-email potential customers to see if there’s interest before investing in BDRs (business development representatives). Make sure prospects searching for your website with buying intent are actually willing to sign up or reach out to you before paying for search ads. Try speaking at small events to see if there’s interest before sponsoring to exhibit at a national conference.
There’s a lot of power in properly using organic search, social media, personal email and speaking opportunities. If you do the small things well here, you’ll find what works—and more importantly, what doesn’t. Then you’ll know where you can invest dollars and you can bet big. Then keep betting bigger and bigger on that channel until it taps out. Repeat.
- Take care of your people.
Ethics in business matters. Treating people well matters. Creating a place where employees want to come to work matters. And they all positively impact your bottom line. In my opinion, the Golden Rule should be Rule #1 even if revenue isn’t a concern. But following it also leads to employees who work harder, stay longer and do more for your customers.
What business owner doesn’t want that?
At Text Request, we empower our people to own their work and build something they’re proud of. We know life exists outside the office, and we welcome setting priorities to create balance. The work gets done, employees perform better and customers have better experiences. This, along with the previous four points, has set the stage for our exponential growth year over year. You can do the same thing, and maybe even do it better.