Success requires overcoming our natural tendency to protect what we have to focus on creating more of what we seek.
As humans, we often get distracted with supervising and conserving the extent and intricacies of what we have, but at some point management only gets us so far. Nature, at its core, creates. It creates and does it well and if it were sentient, it'd probably encourage you to do it too.
Whether it is time, money or clients, too many entrepreneurs focus their efforts on protecting and managing what they have rather than creating even more. At one point I have been guilty of this myself. However, over time I realized that this mindset only keeps entrepreneurs and their businesses back from reaching their true potential. In order to grow, one must create.
The act of creation does exactly what it says it will do: create. Before anything can be managed, it has to be created. For example, in the initial years of starting my business, like many entrepreneurs, I was often forced to significantly reduce my prices to secure a sale. I would sacrifice my profits, sometimes just barely break even, just to get a deal done. Other times, I would resist upselling my current customers because I was afraid of scaring them away to my competitors. My mistake was trying to protect my small customer base instead of finding ways to build it. I’ve learned that the only way around such a dilemma is to prospect so much that one, two or even ten lost sales wouldn’t even matter.
Warren's article can be distilled down to two topics: risk assessment and process improvement.
Growth through Risk Assessment
Using a SaaS as an example, the goal is to create a service or product that attracts customers and causes either retention or expansion (upselling). We, as developers and architects, focus on ways to enhance that experience, drive conversions, and, ultimately, make a profit for the company.
In the past, I've worked on several projects where the status quo was maintained because of fear.
I've experienced two types of customer fear:
- fear of customer loss due to lack of features,
- fear of customer loss due to overwhelming features
My advice when evaluating this risk? A simple cliché. You can't please EVERYONE, so stop fearing customers "leaving" and focus on finding new, better customers. Don't let the risk of change stop forward momentum--especially at the early stages of growth.
Growth through Process Improvement
Now that we have an understanding that forward momentum, growth, and understanding (and accepting) calculated risk, it's time to focus on growth.
As a SaaS, process improvement can come in several flavors:
- new features/functionality
- improvements to existing features/functionality
- workflow/UX improvements
- integrations with other products
- onboarding improvements (removing barriers to entry)
... and a whole score more.
In my experience, your process improvement should be tied to your KPIs.
Is it important for you to have a large user base--no matter what? Then onboarding and conversion improvements might be the right place to start your "growth."
If cultivating your current user base and growing your revenues through upselling is important, evaluate what features your customers are willing to pay for (or pay more for through premium accounts) and implement those.
What's truly important is understanding (and measuring) how your company, your product, or your customer base "grows" and what factors trigger that growth.