First up, I am sorry for absconding this blog for a while. It is not that I stopped running a business. Instead, I got lost running it.
Today, I want to share an interesting dilemma I am facing and my thinking process.
To grow your start-up or not?
Thanks to the awesome customers and supporters, my little business has been growing more than 100% year on year since I started it. The best part of this growth is that it is organic. It feels great to know that we are getting new customers, new prospects, new ideas, new deals, new link-backs without spending any money on advertising, PR or marketing. But…,
With growth , you get extra work, people to manage and blurred vision.
So, as I am winding up the year 2011, the question of to grow or not is staring at me.
Just to give you a comparison, when I quit my job to get in to this full time (in April 2010), this is how my weekly schedule looked like:
- Writing new content – 12 hours per week
- Email & answering – 12 hrs
- Reading & learning new things – 6 hrs
- Customer service – 3 hrs
- Product development – 3 hrs
After 18 months, this is how it looks now (November, 2011):
- Writing new content – 4 hrs
- Email & answering – 4 hrs
- Reading & learning new things – 1 hrs
- Customer service – 1 hrs
- Product Development – 8 hrs
- Phone calls & collaboration – 1 hrs
While it seems like I have been working less (36hrs per week vs. 19hrs per week) , much of it is due to restructuring my time & priorities. That said, I have been working more on commercial side of my business (product development) than fun side of it (writing, reading & connecting).
And this has been a disturbing trend.
So, I want to take a step back and see if everything we are doing aligns with what we want this business to be.
What do we want – Growth, Fame, Money or Something else?
When I started my business, I did not have any loft goals. It was just a means for me to do what I love (play with Excel, connect with people, make them awesome). But as the business grew, I have narrowed the purpose of our business.
We are here to make you awesome
We are doing this by providing online tutorials, help, products & consulting on Microsoft Office platform.
Well, awesomeness is a lofty goal. But there are 2 important questions.
- How do we make people awesome?
- How do we measure it?
How to make people awesome?
There is no single or perfect way to make people awesome. You are awesome when,
- you are very very impressive.
- you are inspiring
- you are a rockstar, a hero, a ninja
So how do we take a total stranger on internet and make her awesome? Of course, by being awesome ourselves. This is how we try to make others awesome,
- Share our ways of doing awesome stuff
- Writing new content
- Teach how to be awesome (or like us)
- Training programs
- Make products that are awesome (ie inspire, impress and make the user a hero)
- Templates & Downloads
How do we measure it?
Although not perfect, I have a vague sense of how to measure it.
- Number of people reading and benefiting from our articles & tutorials
- Number of people joining our training programs and working thru them.
- Feedback given by these customers about the effectiveness of the programs.
- Number of people using our templates, tools & techniques
- Total downloads, purchases, feedback left
- Emails & thank you notes received
- This is qualitative, but you get a pulse of things.
If our goal is to make people awesome,
If our goal is to Make people awesome, then naturally, we must grow to meet new people to make them awesome.
But if that growth compromises our ability to make people awesome …?
As I see it, by spending more time developing products & collaborating, I am not able to make people more awesome.
So here is what I am going to focus for next several months.
- Writing new content
- Restructure our website navigation & make it friendly new readers: This is important because even though writing new content helps us make people awesome, every day we get thousands of people land on our site for first time. And we want them to be awesome by not just reading new content, but also consuming older stuff. Currently this is not possible because of the difficult navigation.
- Trimming our product line: In our urge to meet our customer’s needs, we have created a few products that are 100% awesome. So I want to spend next 2-3 months trimming a few of them. This will free up our time to focus on important things.
What are your thoughts on this?
The question of growth consumes any entrepreneur during the childhood of her start-up. To grow or to remain stagnant. While it may seem easy to remain stagnant, it is just as difficult. There are several natural forces trying to grow or shrink your business all the time. How are you addressing these and what are your thoughts on the growth question?
Please share using comments.