Obsessing Over Small Improvements & The Mania Required to Not Quit on Incremental Growth

It’s like waiting for a pot of tea to steep. Images via BOSSFIGHT.

In startup world it’s easy to get obsessed and entirely distracted with all of the many huge shifts around technology and the companies that are taking advantage of these shifts and end up hitting “hyper-growth” stages.

The completely unsexy reality is that many of these companies have been around for years and only recently have started to get some traction and, as a consequence, are starting to get some modicum of attention. You and I hear it often enough:

Wow, I had no idea that they’ve been around for that long!

The most poignant example of this for me personally was the fact that the very first time I had ever heard of “Zappos” was when they were acquired by Amazon for nearly one billion dollars.

I had no idea that they had been around for a decade (and certainly hadn’t used their service).

Collecting wood takes time (and you save it for much later use).

The reality of building a company is that the founding team lives in this strange place where the entirety of their life is centered around this idea, the product, and the small team of crazy people who also believe in the germ of an idea. We easily forget the forest among the trees.

People easily forget (including me) how long it takes to build a company and that finding a market that’s ready to purchase some sort of version of their product can take an enormous amount of time — sometimes it feels like an absolute eternity.

And I’ll admit, even after having done this a few times even I can become upset or discouraged when I don’t see the traction as early as I would like!

But the startup game is both about hyper-growth and also, at the exact same time, a mania around small improvements, the things that are done incrementally that, in isolation, do not appear to matter much but end up being a major part of the company’s success in aggregate.

It’s about winning the small, daily skirmishes that end up winning the major battles and then ultimately the war. It’s the day-in / day-out grind that ends up being the things that ultimately count and that will amount to great success or will be forgotten (or blamed as reason for not making it).

Make that content!

For instance, everyone agrees that a consistent content marketing strategy is a must-have for any company of any size and despite the acceptance of this universal truth not many companies spend the time and the resources to do anything close to what anyone would consider “consistent content marketing”.

The point is this: It just takes a certain type of perspective, a certain type of mania to relentlessly focus on the small, incremental improvements that really push the needle forward for the long-term.

It requires that the founding team and leadership have the philosophy (and the resulting pragmatic systems) in place so that these things are prioritized and executed against. You must be relentlessly resourceful about all parts of the business, all the time.

And so I’ve found myself reviewing all of the “small” things that we’re doing as a team that are adding up big-time already for us:

  1. Blogging religiously twice a week on our blog here on Medium.
  2. Executing against Version Zero Dot Zeros and making small incremental changes to maximize impact, especially after hearing from our early testers and customers.
  3. All the small administrative things that it takes to put a business together, optimizing each one, tweaking as you go along.
  4. Making adjustments to pitch decks after every attempt, after every phone call, and taking every critique as helpful.
  5. Slowly adding to our team (“observers”) who are adding value incrementally to our tech and strategy. Relationships take time so this is a requirement to build early, often, and always.
  6. Experimenting with other marketing initiatives as we have time and making small adjustments with content and copy. Doing simple A/B Testing even when we think it’s too early.
  7. Reaching out to a growing list of users within different communities, actively engaging with them 1:1, having coffee dates and the like.
  8. Grinding hard on our messaging and overall pitch and positioning statements, mostly internally so that I’m simply practicing it as much as I possibly can.
  9. Growing as a leadership team by allocating time to read leadership books and content pieces from respected thought leaders.
  10. Practicing (and modeling) healthy behavior and a lifestyle that centers around health, especially since it’s one of our core values.

We believe that we are in this for the long-game and that building a company does, in fact, take a very long time, especially if you want to build something that far outlasts you.

Yes, it can be frustratingly-slow, most of the time, but we’re not making decisions to optimize for a “quick flip” or anything that would jeopardize our long-term goal of helping organizations become more healthy.

We just won’t do it. So, consequently, we’re pretty manic about small improvements, the incremental growth opportunities that will one day balloon into something very, very big.

One day at a time.

We’re obsessed with building healthy organizations and we’re building tools to do just that. Join us in our journey to make it happen: Follow us on Twitter, subscribe to our Email Newsletter, and follow this blog.