How Startups Get Out Of Survival Mode and Into Growth Mode

Joe Procopio
5 min readMar 12, 2020

When should a startup begin planning for growth? The answer is now.

The unconventional truth is that a startup should very rarely be acting out of survival — living from one sale to the next or from one month to the next. In fact, survival mode should only be reserved for those periods when uncontrollable external forces conspire to create a substantial impact to business as usual.

You know, like a global pandemic that threatens to take down entire economies.

But I’ll save how to do survival mode for another post. Because even when external circumstances dictate that a startup go into survival mode, every day that startup remains in survival mode brings it another day closer to failure.

If a startup isn’t growing, it’s dying. So you should be thinking, planning, and acting in growth mode all the time. Here’s how to transition your company up and out of the muck.

The moment of truth is CAC and LTV

It’s said that if you want to create a successful business, find something you do well at low costs and high margins and repeat it over and over until something stops your progress. This is true. This is much easier said than done. And it’s nothing that you can just luck or viral your way into.

One of the companies I’m advising hit their growth moment of truth last week. It was a moment we had been chasing for the better part of six months, and it came to fruition when they put real numbers for Cost to Aquire a Customer (CAC) and initial Lifetime Value (LTV) into a spreadsheet.

This is the first step on the path to growth mode.

Their CAC data covered every part of addressing their market, from various marketing channels to conversions to onboarding. They had rows and rows of data for each path to closing the sale — from optimal and desirable paths to costly and clunky paths — and the true costs associated with each.

Their LTV data addressed each of their tiers of service, their churn, and what they could project moving forward. They threw out all the outliers — the freemiums, the VIPs, the beta testers — until they were working with real, defendable dollar figures.

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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