Hey Startup Founders, Stop Thinking Small

The road to long-term success starts with giving up small gains

Joe Procopio

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image by wayhomestudio

This is an open message to entrepreneurs and startup leaders to stay out of that sticky swamp of focusing on the past and taking small gains. It’s also a reminder to myself. Because I do it. A lot.

Because it’s an easy trap to fall into.

The concept has never been hammered home as hard as it has since I’ve been at my most recent startup endeavor. Spiffy — mobile vehicle care and maintenance — is co-founded and run by a friend of mine who was on the board of one of my previous startups. He also has taken a startup from zero to IPO, and the way he runs things isn’t exactly the opposite of the way I do, but his focus on the future is relentless compared to mine.

And his focus works better.

The Small Gain Swamp Is Full Of Quicksand

Getting lost in the small stuff is easy to do, especially when you’ve had some success and especially when that success comes early. I’ve had three startups of my own now where I got to a certain level then leveled off. The problem wasn’t that those companies suddenly stopped growing. In fact, one of them grew all the way to acquisition once I solved the problem.

The problem was that I fell in love with the gains I had made.

Again, super easy to do. It’s not just about the money and trying to manage current cash flow. It’s about how you feel when customers love your product and your company. There’s a trap there, and while it’s a trap set with good intentions, you can easily get caught up in it and start killing your future to protect your present.

So let’s jump over a few of these traps.

Small Top Line Growth

This is the one that will drown you the quickest. That same CEO of Spiffy also likes to say that the worst mistake a founder can make is to look at any chart that rockets up and to the right and assume that it will stay that way forever.

With growth, it starts with the 100–1000% percent growth in customers, revenue, or even engagement over the first few months. Going from nothing to something can…

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Joe Procopio

I'm a multi-exit, multi-failure entrepreneur. NLG pioneer. Building TeachingStartup.com & GROWERS. Write at Inc.com and BuiltIn.com. More at joeprocopio.com