“Move fast and break things” is one of the most famous Silicon Valley axioms. Made popular by Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, the saying became a mantra for the way an entire startup culture operated. That’s changing, though, to an increased emphasis on slowing down and taking the time to get things right.
As financial executive Larry Fink put it in a 2019 letter to shareholders, “Companies that fulfill their purpose and responsibilities to stakeholders reap rewards over the long-term. Companies that ignore them stumble and fail.”
Organizational efficiency is key to achieving this goal.
Moving fast and breaking things is great if you’re planning to constantly expand, but cleaning up the mess you leave behind can sometimes cost you more over the long run. And that sort of constant push means little things fall through the cracks.
If you want to optimize organizational efficiency within your startup, you must find the balance between “move fast and break things” and “slow down and build operational systems.”
Use these hacks to be more efficient while boosting your ROI
Focus on employee training
Did you realize that only 32 percent of employees in the U.S. say they’re engaged at their jobs? Worldwide, a baffling 13 percent say they are engaged—and those numbers have stayed steady for a while.
Though you can keep a startup going for a while even with employee churn, the faster your employee base turns over, the more likely it is that you’ll see significant efficiency drops. When employees leave, you lose their experience and the specialized knowledge they’ve built up over the years with your company.
You also have to train the next person to fill their spot, which is an added cost. One report found that an average of $1,075 was spent on training costs for every new employee, and that didn’t include hidden costs like efficiency.
To really engage your employees, focus on helping them better themselves at work, offering extra training, development, responsibility and increased autonomy.
Use technology to stay organized and improve efficiency
Improve the efficiency and overall performance of your business by using technology to streamline the tasks you already do. Start with the very simplest of tasks: digitizing all of your documents, and storing them in the cloud.
“The problem is that even with digital documents, we’re still organizing them the same way as paper files: folders inside folders inside folders. This nesting doll storage method makes it easy for important pieces of information to hide or get lost, takes your employees more time to find what they need, and makes your organization look sloppy to partners and clients that witness this,” Riita Raesmaa, co-founder of ContractZen, said.
Central databases and cloud-driven organizational software make it possible to run your business far more efficiently than our paper-based forebears did. But a shocking number of startups companies don’t take advantage of these solutions. Don’t be one of them.
Write down your processes—and be specific
“Surely it can’t be that simple,” you might think. But the “move fast and break things” ethos doesn’t always leave time to write things down for the future. Unsurprisingly, that means the companies that have to reinvent the wheel get bogged down in inefficiency. If you don’t keep track of your processes, you can’t repeat them easily. And if you’re dealing with employee turnover, it’s even worse.
As angel investor Bill Trenchard noted, “The startups that I have seen succeed the most at scaling are the ones who have systematized their common actions and core procedures early, and made a habit of it as they grew.”
Companies like Uber scaled because they made playbooks with what worked and modified their processes slightly as they went for each market. One of the routes to efficiency is to stop doing the same thing twice.
Use A/B testing to your advantage
Too many startups wind up pouring money into unproductive ideas because they go with their gut and don’t use the data available to them. Though your gut is valuable, relying too much on it can lead to costly mistakes. Data is a more reliable indicator of how your customers actually behave.
Are you A/B testing your landing pages, sales strategies, checkouts and every other part of your business? To increase your efficiency, you need to continue A/B testing these as your business moves forward. And don’t neglect re-testing, which experts say will help you further refine your strategy as you move forward and address any sample size errors.
Focus on thought leadership
According to one LinkedIn survey, 47 percent of C-suite executives share contact info after reading a thought leadership piece. That’s staggering. Sixty percent of business decision makers said they awarded a bid to an organization they hadn’t previously considered just on the basis of thought leadership content.
Sales doesn’t just start and end with sales. It relies on marketing as well, and especially if you’re in business-to-business, you can significantly boost your leads with thought leadership content. Based on LinkedIn’s data, that ROI should be considerable.
Startup efficiency matters more than it’s been given credit for. With some simple hacks and a willingness to stay the course, you can power up your startup and bring some balance to the “move fast and break things” ethos.