bitter sweet when your startup hits growth

Growing Pains: What to Expect When Your Startup Hits a Growth Spurt

“When in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout”


There is a very specific sweet & sour spot in the life of a product startup that every entrepreneur remembers with a loving cringe – that moment in your company’s lifecycle when something clicked, months of market penetration efforts paid off and users started swarming in.

bitter sweet when your startup hits growth

Life on the Brink

That moment can last weeks and sometimes months, and is defined by the sudden gap that’s created between needs and resources. Users’ needs grow overnight, while the resources remain the same, and the challenge your team is instantaneously presented with, is maintaining a reasonably functioning product while (temporarily) understaffed and under-powered.

That temporariness creates a sense of uncertainty that gradually affects every last member of the team. This is a good uncertainty, rooted in optimism, anticipation, and a giddy pride in being part of the success.

However, many of the solutions provided during this time are patches, ad hoc solutions that will need permanent fixes when the dust settles somewhat. Here are a few things to watch out for and try to implement smartly, as much as the shifting ground allows.   

Perpetual lag in User Support

Support is undoubtedly the area of operation that gets hit the hardest. Support requests quadruple themselves overnight and suddenly one person providing email support is no longer enough. The nature of support requests also takes a turn: this second wave of early adopters bring usability questions, more feature requests and plenty of bug reports.

This is a good time to start considering support automation tools, chat support solutions and to start planning your knowledge base. Those will all take a load off the team members providing support and allow you the leeway to build a good support team on your terms.    


Marketing resources vs. audience expectations  

On one hand, rumors of your product’s awesomeness are starting to spread. Reviews are popping up, followers are flocking to the company’s Twitter account. On the other hand, your website still looks like it’s built on a free WordPress template and you don’t yet have a marketing strategy.

There’s no real way around it. This when you hire a marketing director, set out a few urgent fires and work with her to start aligning your branding and marketing strategy with your overall business strategy. The good news is – there won’t be a massive churn because your logo looks like a favor from a friend. In fact, the state of things is probably far less terrible than you think. Hey, it got you this far.   

Raising the RIGHT investment

This thought is part of a wider approach to startup growth at critical points that says: “grow smart, not fast”.

Many of the decisions you’ll make at early points in your company’s way will prove to be significant. That doesn’t mean they can’t be changed, but these decisions will most certainly establish your direction and visibility for the stages that follow.    

It doesn’t look like it, but this is exactly the time to stop, every now and again, and thoroughly consider the next few steps. Revisit your penetration strategy and target audience. Decide, along with your co-founders, who you want to let into the leadership positions and how much power you’re willing to offer stakeholders.

Changing your perception about your company

The most important change you will be required to make during this transition phase, is to start thinking about your company in terms of, well, a company. Up till this point, everyone on the team was thinking in terms of “team”, “product”, “startup”.

This is where it all changes: growth comes with expanding gravitas and responsibility – to your users, employees and to your brand. It is finally really becoming a “we”, with everything that entails – budgets, contracts, campaigns, work spaces, smarter workflows.

These few weeks are a good opportunity to start growing into those shoes, exercising consideration of the “we”. Growth is as much about stretching sideways as it is about reaching upwards.

P. S. Create products with!

Read more
Jobs to be Done

Jobs to be Done vs. Personas: Is One Framework Better?

It seems as though the more recently developed Jobs to be Done (JTBD) framework is giving the traditional practice of creating personas a run for its money. However, a careful analysis of both the persona and JTBD theory indicate

Read more
SaaS customer retention

3 Retention Hacks for SaaS Products

Churn is a SaaS customer retention killer, capable of costing you half your customers each year, with a monthly churn rate of as low as 5 percent. That means that reducing churn is the single most powerful key to

Read more
product management courses | stock kid with book

5 Online Product Management Courses Worth Looking Into

As we’ve mentioned before, the secret to being a great product manager usually can’t be found in formal education or training courses, but in the passion and experience you’ve gained working on different aspects of products. That said if

Read more

Sliding Sidebar