“When we first launched things were going gangbusters. But since then, things have kind of flat-lined. The business seems stalled. What do we do from here?"
Part of the challenge with running a startup is that we simply don't have any history of whether past performance was the future of our business or "just a really good quarter.”
For this reason, it's hard to tell whether we're really stalled until enough time has gone by that we can see the writing on the wall.
We imagine a "successful startup" always has a stout growth trend that runs "up and to the right" on every chart. But that's actually not really true.
Yes, there are some standout companies that smash records, but most companies grow slowly over a long period of time. That doesn't make them bad companies — it just means they grow slower.
A stalled startup does lose some luster for some people, but not everyone.
Yes, investors are less interested in a stalled asset. Yes, some employees will leave if they don't see big upside potential with an exit.
But beyond that, customers generally don't care if we have a stalled startup — they care about how good the product is. Most employees care more about how secure their jobs are than how much upside may or may not exist.
The "perils" are often confined to a few very specific use cases.
If our startup has stalled, that doesn't mean we’ve given up on it, it just means we have to figure out where it best fits in our lives.
One option could be to turn it into more of a side business. Another option could be to reduce expenses and try to run it leaner to generate some profit long enough to figure something else out.
And of course, there's always the option to sell it and move on.
What's important to know is that being "stalled" isn't necessarily a death sign, it just means we have to treat the asset differently. If it turns out the answer is "It's totally useless" then yes, we can bail and try something else.
But the point is, a "stalled" startup is just an asset with different upside potential.
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Growth Isn’t Always Good. There's a time and a place to focus on growth, but all too often our focus on growth comes directly at the expense of our focus on quality. And that's a dangerous place to be.
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Wil Schroter is the Founder + CEO @ Startups.com, a startup platform that includes Bizplan, Clarity, Fundable, Launchrock, and Zirtual. He started his first company at age 19 which grew to over $700 million in billings within 5 years (despite his involvement). After that he launched 8 more companies, the last 3 venture backed, to refine his learning of what not to do. He's a seasoned expert at starting companies and a total amateur at everything else.