Startup Shortcuts to Growth: 10 Ways Interim Executives Can Have Immediate Impact on Business Growth
By Kristen McAlister, CEO, Cerius Executives
Startups have a notoriously low success rate. In fact, statistics show that only one in ten survive to breakeven and become a small business. Business Growth.
Why the high failure rate? Some fail simply because they didn’t create a product or service that people want. But a larger chunk of startups simply vanish due to the wrong growth strategy or the wrong execution.
Worse yet, many founders struggle to figure out what’s going wrong—or how to fix it—until it’s too late.
What’s Missing: Key Leadership to Fill Knowledge Gaps
“What many startups don’t realize is that they can have an interim executive come in and provide the experience and laser focus execution necessary to course-correct a strategy that isn’t working—or create an entirely new one,” said Pamela Wasley, CEO, Cerius Executives. “Interim executives can help entrepreneurs stay sustainable by drawing out a growth strategy that will bring customers and set the business up for long-term success.”
10 Business Growth Strategies for Startups
Growth — fast growth — is what entrepreneurs crave, investors need, and markets want. Rapid growth is the sign of a great idea in a hot market.
Interim executives can have an immediate impact by providing specific leadership at critical points in business, and can respond directly to dynamic business needs. In fact, the right interim executive can help your company capitalize on a great idea, and make sure it gets the attention and growth it deserves.
If you’re a startup that’s hit a roadblock, here are 10 growth strategies an interim executive can help you employ:
1. Interim executive growth strategy: Find your competitive advantage.
What differentiates you from the competition? Every successful business has a unique selling proposition (USP)—the reason why a customer buys your product instead of your competitor’s. You need to identify what your USP is, and then anchor and communicate it through your marketing. For Walmart it’s cheap prices, for Apple it’s premium quality, for Subway it’s freshness. If you don’t have one, then make one. Figure out what strategy will help you capture the most market share and follow it.
2. Interim executive growth strategy: Forge relationships.
Build a solid customer base by forging relationships with your target audience. Listen to their concerns and clearly communicate what you offer. Follow up with them to find ways to improve their experience. Satisfied customers will recommend the product or service if they’re happy, in turn driving word-of-mouth marketing.
Megan Wenzl, associate editor for Reviewtrackers, says, “More engaged customers mean higher customer retention, lower churn, increased loyalty and customer lifetime value, and greater sales and revenue.”
3. Interim executive growth strategy: Go to new locations.
One way to grow is by entering new markets. You can do that by wading into new locations to sell your existing product. Begin with cities nearby and then expand to other areas or even countries. Start small by testing the local response before committing to the area and investing in a physical space. You might find your product performing better in some regions compared to others – research why and then move into markets with similar factors of growth.
4. Interim executive growth strategy: Focus on your niche.
Having a niche focus is absolutely the most viable option for small businesses looking to grow and expand their reach. To achieve it, you need to know what you do well, and stay in your lane. Pour your energy into understanding your target audience and doing your best to meet their needs. Eventually, you can use your knowledge to upsell additional products or explore cross-selling opportunities to advance your growth.
5. Interim executive growth strategy: Explore adjacent markets and new uses for your product.
Market development is another crucial growth strategy that startups should employ. An interim executive can help formulate a market development or expansion plan to sell your current product to an adjacent market. Additionally, even a reassessment of a product may uncover a new use, which can increase its reach. For example, a product created for health purposes could be found useful as a skincare product, too. So the product isn’t new, but the market is. This discovery can help you fan out into other markets, ultimately increasing sales and eventually, reach. Keep in mind, it’s smart to conduct thorough research on the market and customer base before launching into a new market—another thing your interim executive can help spearhead.
6. Interim executive growth strategy: Market products more innovatively.
If your startup isn’t harnessing the full power of Internet marketing—including SEO, digital marketing (e.g., display ads, Google ads) and social media marketing—you’re missing valuable opportunities to grow. A web/digital strategy can help customers access your products and services, and engage with the brand in a positive manner that can lead to increased sales.
7. Interim executive growth strategy: Build a high-performance team.
Any resource, whether IT, infrastructure or supply chain can be replicated—but not Human Resources. Attracting and retaining the best employees can be one of the biggest challenges in a competitive environment. Motivating employees to realize their potential, reinventing the company culture, and providing adequate degrees of freedom and sense of ownership are surefire ways to ensure your startup is on the right growth track.
8. Interim executive growth strategy: Stop doing what’s not working.
We’ve all heard the definition of insanity, right? It’s doing the same thing and expecting different results. Although we’re familiar with this well-known saying, it doesn’t seem to stop some entrepreneurs from continuing to execute on strategies that still aren’t working. An interim executive can help you distinguish between the processes that are moving you forward and those that are holding you back—so that you can fail fast and get to what works more quickly.
9. Interim executive growth strategy: Hire a business advisor or coach.
Although it may sound a little self-serving, even a good business leader can benefit from having a good business coach. Business in today’s world is too complex to grow it alone—and many C-suite leaders feel isolated. Many presidents and CEOs rely on help from an advisor, who can serve as a sounding board, fill gaps in knowledge, and provide sound advice on solving challenges and achieving current business goals.
10. Interim executive growth strategy: Focus on the right KPIs.
You’ll always track and review multiple numbers, but pick a minimal set of key performance indicators (KPIs), which you’ll track and report every day. In other words: Capture everything, but focus on what’s important. In their book Lean Analytics, the authors introduce the concept of OMTM—the One Metric That Matters. The OMTM is the one number you’re completely focused on above everything else for your current stage. It could be number of customers per week, the number of new active users, the number of paid subscribers, cost of customer acquisition—anything that has a direct impact on your company performance.
Every startup kicks off with a unique idea or product. However, it takes a brilliant growth strategy to sustain in the market and ensure that the business concept reaches the masses. To ensure your strategy is sound, learn about the benefits of interim, fractional/part-time or project-based executives and business advisors who can provide expertise and proven experience without the long-term commitment.