Today’s startup environment is dynamic. It’s impossible to grow your business with purpose and conviction if you don’t make a concerted effort to get ahead of things before they happen. And while you won’t always be successful in predicting what happens next, a proactive approach to startup growth and development will, more often than not, put you in a place to be successful.
In business, it’s easy to get become so consumed by what’s happening around you that all of your time goes toward reactive management. This could look like answering an endless stream of customer emails, attending multiple meetings per day, reviewing work and progress, coaching individual employees through their own specific challenges, and addressing customer service complaints.
As entrepreneur Dave Bailey explains, “Reactive time is spent working on other people’s priorities.” On the other hand, “Proactive time is spent working on your own priorities.”
If you want to do less of the former and more of the latter, you’ll need to prioritize your approach. Here are some of the things proactive startups do on a regular basis:
1. Start Each Day/Week With a Plan.
Any time you enter into a workweek or day without a specific plan of action, you’ll find that you’re highly susceptible to what’s happening around you. Without any prioritized allocation of your time, reactivity becomes the natural order of the day.
The most proactive startups are the ones whose founding teams are purposeful about setting clear, precise, and forward-thinking goals that control the company’s trajectory, as opposed to letting others influence how time and energy is spent.
2. Seek Out Customer Feedback.
Customer feedback is obviously important. Your startup will receive feedback sooner or later (whether you want it or not), but it’s far better if you proactively seek it out. In doing so, you can remediate issues sooner and quell small flames before they become roaring fires.
3. Leverage Prescriptive Analytics.
Supply chain management is a big deal for startups that produce and sell physical products. The advent of artificial intelligence has paved the way for new methods – most notably prescriptive solutions that produce future predictions combined with suggestive actions that will result in best possible outcomes.
“Rather than spending hours gathering and preparing data, teams take advantage of automated collection and analysis, which frees up their brain power to focus on working strategically,” LeanDNA explains. “With a single click, analysts, buyers, managers, and executives can see historical trends, future projections, and recommended next steps for improving outcomes.”
This visionary approach to supply chain management has spilled over into other areas of business and now dictates how savvy startups handle things like inventory, sales, marketing, and customer service.
4. Invest in Preventative Maintenance.
For startups with lots of equipment – which includes physical machinery and/or computer technology – preventative maintenance is an absolute must. Research shows that the right preventative maintenance plan results in a 545 percent return on investment. In other words, you can’t afford not to invest in a preventative maintenance plan.
Savvy startups inventory all of their equipment and develop proactive plans that identify issues earlier and allow for strategic solutions to be implemented before serious damage, delays, or downtime occur.
5. Always Network and Recruit.
Every startup encounters situations and periods of time where assistance is needed. Whether it’s in the form of an investor, employee, business partner, or supplier, it pays to have existing relationships in place so that you can deal with these situations in a timely manner.
Having said this, make sure you never stop networking. Even when you feel like things are going well, have a hungry attitude. This is especially important when it comes to recruiting. You never know when a key employee or team member will leave and you’ll need to find a replacement. Already having a list of people you can reach out to will speed things up and make the process less emotional.
How Can You Be More Proactive?
Proactive strategies will look different for every startup. It all depends on the industry you’re in, the stage of development, what you’re trying to accomplish in the short-term, what your long-term goals are, etc. By processing every decision through a reactive vs. proactive lens, you’ll find that you approach startup growth and development in a contextualized manner that puts your business on a path toward success.