Okinyo Mark

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Okinyo Mark

Product Strategy

Brand Positioning and Marketing

Operations Management

Executive Leadership

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The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Growing A Startup Business

The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Growing A Startup Business

Growing a startup business from MVP (Minimum Viable Product) or early stage, to growth, and finally to scale, is a challenging process that requires careful evaluation of key areas that could spell success or doom for your venture. So… I thought it would be worthwhile to share some tips that I have learnt as I turn a decade old in the startup scene.

About 6 month’s ago I made the decision to legitimize my management consultancy business and finally follow through with a vision I have held for about 5 years now. So far, it has been an exhausting but equally rewarding experience with some highs – like when I had my first paying customers, or when my business case studies went mainstream.

While I am yet hit the pinnacles I plan to reach, I am here for the journey, enjoying, and learning as I go. This the approach I am taking to grow my own business and they may be of help to you if you happen to be shooting in the dark.

1. Start with a Strong Mission, Vision, and Values

The first step before you even think of going for growth – is to have a clear mission, vision, and set of values that you and your team will ascribe to. These are common words [mission, vision, values] that are associated with businesses and many people don’t know what or how to use them. Let’s break them down:

  • Mission: It defines what your business is doing right now
  • Vision: It describes where you want to be in the future
  • Values: They outline the principles that guide how you and your team show up for work each day.

You might overlook these 3 things in the beginning of your business…and you might even succeed with getting your products to market without them, but eventually, the wheels will start to come off when you reach the growth stage of your organization.

As you start to hire more staff, onboard more partners, and develop new products, it will always be important to remember why you started your business in the first place. That way, you can give your stakeholders a clear direction to pursue and model the behaviours to exhibit both internally and externally. If this advice is coming late and you’ve already found yourself in a company with broken team culture, here’s what you can do.

To ensure your mission, vision, and values are effective, ask yourself:

  • What is your company’s purpose?
  • What value do you provide to your customers?
  • What is your long-term outlook for the business?
  • What principles guide your decision-making and behavior?

Coming up with a mission and vision doesn’t have to be rocket science as you can see from the simple vision setting workshop I ran with my students in a previous business masterclass below:

Here’s the final output from that session:

Vision Setting Exercise | Okinyo Mark

There are other frameworks available to help you with vision setting if you’d prefer to go down that route. I recommend Simon Sinek’s “Golden Circle.”

The Golden Circle | Okinyo Mark

This framework emphasizes starting with “why” – why does your company exist, why do you do what you do, and why should people care? This approach can help you create a clear and compelling message that resonates with your customers and employees.

2. Create Products that People Need, Want, Love or All of These

The concept of business is built around the premise of solving a common problem, discomfort, or pain-point, for a similar group of people… repeatedly, successfully, in a timely manner, and at a price point that they are willing to pay to have the problem gone.

Customers pay to have problems disappear because:

  • They lack the time to solve them on their own
  • They lack the skills to solve them on their own
  • They lack resources or capacity to solve them on their own

Gather feedback from your customers and use it to refine your product. Look for opportunities to expand your product line or enter new markets through customer research tools like Personas, Surveys, Social Listening, Touchpoints, Journey Maps, Predicative Analytics, Adaptive Conjoint Analysis, and Customer Segmentation.

Customer Research Tools  | Okinyo Mark

To achieve superior product performance and increase your chances at success, you generally want to solve problems in any of these four categories.

  • Is the problem you are solving unavoidable?
  • Is the problem you are solving unworkable?
  • Is the problem you are solving urgent?
  • Are you serving a market segment that is underserved?

Your product is the backbone of your business, and as you scale, it’s essential that you continue to improve and innovate. From there on, it’s all about how can you meaningfully differentiate your product from competitors and substitutes to capture the attention, imagination, and emotions of your target audience.

To measure the success of your product, you want to measure positive growth in all of the dimensions below:

  • Customer Acquisition
  • Customer Retention
  • Customer Satisfaction
  • Revenue by Product Line

All drill-down KPIs for growing a startup business will fall under these four buckets but if I had to pick one as the holy grail of product success, it would have to be Customer Retention!

3. Have a Sustainable Business Model {VERY IMPORTANT!}

As you scale, you need to ensure that your business model is sustainable. Look for ways to increase revenue, reduce costs, and streamline operations. Consider new pricing strategies, partnerships, or licensing deals that could help you grow.

To ensure your business model is effective, ask yourself:

  • How do you generate revenue, and is it sustainable?
  • How can you reduce costs and increase efficiency?
  • What new revenue streams could you explore?
  • How can you protect your intellectual property?

As you scale your startup, you’ll need to evaluate and potentially adjust your business model to ensure it’s sustainable and profitable. A business model outlines how your business creates and captures value, and there are several different types of models to consider:

  • Subscription model: Customers pay a recurring fee for access to your product or service.
  • Freemium model: Customers use a beginner version of your product for free but pay for additional features or services.
  • E-commerce model: Customers purchase products directly from your website.
  • Marketplace model: You facilitate transactions between buyers and sellers and take a commission on each sale.
  • On-demand model: Customers access your product or service on an as-needed basis.
  • Licensing model: You license your technology or intellectual property to other businesses.

When evaluating your business model, consider factors such as your target market, pricing strategy, and cost structure. What works for one business may not work for another, so it’s important to tailor your model to your specific context. This is perhaps one of the most important factors when building and growing a startup business. Copying tactics from other markets will not guarantee success for your market segment. Do your research and work from there.

In today’s market, customer behavior is shifting towards convenience and personalization. Businesses that can offer fast, seamless, and customized experiences are more likely to succeed. E-commerce, on-demand, and subscription models are particularly well-suited to meet these needs. However, it’s important to remember that no business model is foolproof, and you should constantly evaluate and adjust your model as market conditions change.

– Okinyo Mark | Business Management Consultant

A helpful framework for evaluating your business model is the “Business Model Canvas,” which involves assessing key elements such as customer segments, value proposition, and revenue streams. This approach can help you identify areas for improvement and develop a plan to optimize your model.

Business Model Canvas as a Tool for Growing a Startup Business | Okinyo Mark

To measure the success of your business model, track metrics such as revenue growth, profit margin, and customer acquisition cost.

4. Scaling Your Startup Operations

Your operations will become increasingly complex as your business grows. Ensure you have the right infrastructure in place to support your growth, such as the right team, processes, and tools. Automate time-consuming and repetitive processes where possible to improve efficiency and reduce errors.

To ensure your operations are effective, ask yourself:

  • What business processes are essential and how can you optimize them?
  • How can you improve your team’s skills and capabilities?
  • What tools and technologies can help you streamline your operations?
  • How can you ensure compliance with regulations and minimize legal risks?

Getting support from a Business Process Mapping (BPM) expert like myself when growing your startup business – will help you document and visualize your current processes into Standard Operational Procedures (SOPs) that capture your current operations at any point in time.

This is especially important for the purposes of onboarding new staff, ensuring knowledge-transfer and continuity, as well as continuous business process improvement.

Business Process Mapping as a Tool for Growing a Startup Business | Okinyo Mark

The BPM process is especially important because it will help you identify risks and opportunities for improvement. Remember to maintain a Risk Register for the identified risks and opportunity areas.

5. Clearly Define Your Organizational Culture

As your business grows, your culture will become increasingly important. Your culture should reflect your mission, vision, and values and create a positive and productive work environment. Hire employees who embody your values and actively cultivate a culture of collaboration, innovation, and accountability.

To ensure your culture is effective, ask yourself:

  • What values and behaviors do you want to promote in your business?
  • How can you ensure that employees embody those values and behaviors?
  • What policies and practices can you put in place to promote a positive work environment?
  • How can you promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in your business?

As you scale, it’s important to establish efficient and effective operations that can support your growth. This may involve hiring new personnel, implementing new technologies, and streamlining processes.

In addition, it’s important to foster a strong company culture that aligns with your mission, vision, and values. This can help attract and retain top talent, build brand reputation, and drive innovation.

Culture Design Canvas as a Tool for Growing a Startup Business | Okinyo Mark
Culture Design Canvas by Gustavo Razetti

Use culture evaluation frameworks like the “Culture Design Canvas,” to help you assess key business elements like values, behaviors, and other artifacts. This approach can help you identify areas for improvement and develop a plan to foster a positive and productive culture.

To measure the success of your operations and culture, track metrics such as:

  • Employee Engagement
  • Productivity
  • Employee Retention
  • Vision Alignment

Key Takeaways for Growing a Startup Business

Entrepreneurs are obviously very talented and creative individuals and while using your creativity to bring your ideas to life is one thing, getting others to buy into your vision, while bringing them along in your journey to change the world is a totally different ball-game. Growing a startup business is hard work, but if you focus on the above five points, I bet you will do quite alright.

Hello, my name is Okinyo Mark and I help startups and entrepreneurs locate ‘the winning-zone’ in their markets through skillful brand-and-product positioning, leadership capacity building, and corporate strategy. Feel free to book my services if you need help in any of these areas or register for any of my upcoming classes on the above topics.

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  • Sowe Yitzhak 12:49 pm May 25, 2023 Reply

    Thank you for sharing this, Mark. Key take away for me is customer retention. In the real estate industry, this is indeed valuable.

    • Mark 3:40 pm May 25, 2023 Reply

      Thank you for checking in Sowe, always happy to connect with and support people like you who are inventing, creating employment, and growing our economy. We are aligned on retention being a core metric of valuable products.

      • Peter kinyua 1:34 pm July 30, 2023 Reply

        Amazing insights, such a fresh perspective.

        • Mark 3:30 pm July 31, 2023 Reply

          Thank you very much for your feedback and for dropping by Peter. Hope to see you back for more of my future posts 😉

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