7 Bits of practical advice for startups growing in a resource-costrained environment
VCs offer a lot of advice from a 30,000-foot view. Here are 7 bits of practical wisdom I gleaned when managing a large, resource-constrained, growing team that you can apply to your startup today.
📈 Think big, but set small goals
Focus on getting 100 orders a month. Then 100 a week. Then 100 per day.
Small wins snowball when given time and space. Set achievable goals and help your team build momentum by crushing them in succession.
🔢 Establish internal SLAs
Make sure employees know *exactly* what you expect of them. Ideally, this will take the form of a numerical target. Quotas don’t have to be reserved solely for the sales team! Response time, on-time deliverables — what gets measured gets done!
💳 Remember, cash flow is a KPI
The most profitable use of an operator’s time is often working on optimizing their cash flow.
Spend time looking for ways to get paid faster and on better terms.
Strong cash flow supercharges every part of the business.
✅ Make goals visible
Have a whiteboard with your long and short-term goals somewhere everyone can see it.
Design a digital equivalent.
Make sure everyone has a single source of truth that clarifies what is urgent vs. important.
↕️ Tell the big and small stories simultaneously
Regularly remind folks about how their day-to-day contributions fit into the overall plan.
Don’t assume they see the big picture — show it to them.
🚪 Act when team members can’t keep up
Letting go of poor performers — humanely — will raise, not lower, morale. Accepting poor performance sets a benchmark and will drag your team down. Treat everyone with dignity, give second chances, but don’t let standards slip.
💥 Celebrate well-executed failures
A culture of fear stifles growth, but not all failures are created equal. E.g., A well-planned and carefully considered flop dramatically differs from a collapse caused by carelessness. Make sure everyone appreciates the difference.
Very little of this is ground-breaking advice. You’ve likely seen it or a variation on these themes before. Still, I’ve learned that the biggest success stories rarely stem from a single bold insight or a lucky break. Consistency matters.
Great teams and startups are built by repeatedly doing things that seem basic, even boring, over time. So don’t wait for a creative breakthrough; break the work down into manageable chunks while striving for the big vision and stick with it day after day.