September 6, 2017
Launching a startup is never easy. When 80 percent of new companies fail in the first few years, the statistics aren’t in your favor. However, that shouldn’t dissuade you.
I’ve learned that the most successful product launches embody three traits: rhythm, balance, and patience. Leaders face their steepest challenges in hiring the right teams, managing multiple work streams, and dealing with delays, but those who consistently keep these principles in mind tend to make more rational and researched decisions and better handle obstacles.
These three strategies for maintaining rhythm, balance, and patience have helped me avoid a dramatic fate.
Get in the Rhythm of Hiring Strategically
No startup has the budget for hundreds of employees, but I’ve seen countless fails because leaders don’t hire the right people early enough.
Often, the best early hires have a few key characteristics that qualify them to lead a launch component: They patch one of management’s weaknesses, possess subject matter expertise similar to a founder’s level, and share the company’s brand principles. To help bring rhythm to the hiring process, ensure that team members share a vision for the launch and agree on the definition of success.
You don’t have to anticipate every need and burden the company with hiring costs at the outset, so hire key employees early and then others closer to the launch date.
Balance All Work Streams With Clearer Goals
Each employee is responsible for a different work stream, with the manager accountable for all, from high-level strategy to core coding. Many managers struggle to find the balance between delegation and micromanaging.
Across every stream, transparent, measurable goals can help propel startups forward. My best launch plans have relied on technology to chart key objectives and empower a small team to own their respective streams. Though any tool that acts as a project management vehicle summarizing open and completed high-level tasks is useful. I’ve used Asana to give my team the resources they need, establish regular check-ins, and proactively ask how I can help them succeed.
Work with team leaders to determine and document these goals in specific terms, and communicate with them early, regularly, and in writing, on what to accomplish and what to avoid. Let the team handle the rest. This, in addition to tools like Asana, provides a framework that helps deliver the high-level, real-time status you require.
Cultivate Patience for Inevitable Delays
Delays are inevitable. The best managers make themselves part of the delay to understand the decisions surrounding it and to plan the response. Incorporating feedback from a focus group of hopeful clients early in the development process helps managers prioritize the most impactful features and maintain the schedule.
In our most recent launch, we hit our first delay just two weeks into development and lost a week of productivity. Once the problem was on my radar, I relocated myself to sit with our development and product leads, joining weekly meetings and holding five-minute stand-up sessions with our head of product and our CTO until we regained our productive rhythm.
To avoid repeats and minimize downtime, we’ve instituted more of these short check-ins. Open communication through tools such as Jira, Slack, Dropbox, and Skype provide minimally interruptive avenues to track progress. Additionally, they show launch-inexperienced team members the prospect or investor feedback on their progress and can cultivate the patience they need to persevere.
Every launch encounters problems. By assembling a strategic team, keeping them focused with measurable goals, and delivering results, you can help to avoid the pitfalls that doom most launches and maximize your new product’s success.
Read more about developing a startup team at TechCo
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