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Evolution of a startup: How to build your business to scale

Even if your heart is set on a business idea, don’t hesitate to pivot


(Editor's note: In the first installment of this series, Keith Roberts talked about how entrepreneurs can know when their business idea is right.)

The early days of running a startup can be a frenzied time. You and your team are ironing out the kinks (sometimes deep-set wrinkles) in your business, your operations, your product — essentially every aspect of your business. But it’s during the early days that you, as an entrepreneur, are able to put in place the processes that will keep the business moving and growing in the years to come.

It’s in those early stages that you need to implement processes. Why? Because processes help your business become more efficient and will help you save money — always crucial, but especially while your company is working toward profitability.

And early on is also the time to fail — you can knock those “failures” out quickly and have a better sense of what’s realistic and what areas your business will excel at (and the ways it won’t). And, though in our last installment we talked about how to land on the best, most realistic business idea, here’s a crucial piece of advice: Even if your heart is set on an idea, don’t be afraid to pivot to something new if focus shifts, if you’re hearing that your customers want something else entirely or if your million-dollar idea sprouts a $10 million idea.

That might mean you spend money on focus groups or surveys of people who fall into your target demographic. Maybe you run into an issue with part of your manufacturing or product delivery system that you didn’t anticipate. Or maybe conversations with stakeholders and your target audience about your initial idea sparked an even better idea — one that could solve an issue affecting a bigger audience.

In developing Bigfoot Web, the sister company to Zenman, we planned to build sites on a different platform, but had to pivot. Initially, the concept had been set up to operate as a one-time fee model. Due to client feedback and developing need, we created a separate service offering with a monthly fee schedule.

Monthly recurring revenue became the focus of Bigfoot Web’s future. Switching to MMR was a really significant shift in our business plan for Bigfoot, and it forced us to reshape our thinking around the concept. But early on was the right time to make the change.

The key is knowing what’s worth pivoting for. You can’t pivot your business model just for the sake of it. Sometimes your original idea is the $10 million idea. But as an entrepreneur, you’ve got to be open to shifting to something that is worth more and that solves the greatest problem.

You can’t shy away from what’s best just because you’d settled on something else. Listening to what your client base needs will lead the way for creating a business that solves the greatest challenge and a business that’s quickly profitable.

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Keith Roberts

President and Founder Keith Roberts founded Denver-based Zenman in 1998 after working with several top artists and agencies. Zenman, which offers web development, design, SEO and more, produces inventive concepts that are visually pleasing, informative and provocative. Contact him at keith@zenman.com

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