Just before I talk about 50 days in, another much more important time is approaching. In 35 days I’ll be getting married. A ceremony for all our friends and family to be able to share the love my fiancé and I have for one another. The amount of planning, preparation, arguments, excitement and money that goes into one of the most important days of our lives is hard to measure — much like the growth of a startup in 50 days, or 1200 hours, or 72,000 minutes worth of work.
In fact, it’s almost impossible to measure — sure you could look at monthly active users, you could look at content added to the site, you could look at registrations, emails sent or any other number of metrics. However, being bootstrapped, we’re taking small steps in our growth and none of these metrics would probably give us an indicator of anything helpful to us right about now. So, if we can’t measure progress by metrics (well, we can, but it’s not helpful so we choose not to) what can we measure our progress by?
Incremental improvements, qualitative feedback and the lessons we’ve learnt.
1. Incremental improvements.
People are often searching for a fix all solution; a single action that pushes you forwards monumentally. A lazy man’s way of making progress. What’s much harder, but more rewarding to do, is incrementally improving small aspects (prioritised by your goals) until what you’re looking at is much much better. Or in other words, keep showing up. When it’s hard, show up. When you’re stuck, show up. When bad things happen, show up. When good things happen, show up.
By showing up you’ll be making small improvements consistently. We have demonstrated this in every update we’ve put out since launch. For instance, when we launched, our registration process was far longer than it needed to be, businesses who invited their freelancers would have to wait for days to actually be able to use them.
We made small incremental improvements to the way our invitations work and in 50 days we’ve built a system that allows businesses to access their freelancers instantly and gives a freelancer a single step to complete their profile.
As long as you’re taking incremental steps based on your customer’s feedback and the goals you’ve set out, you’re moving forward.
2. Qualitative Feedback.
Looking at metrics for growth measurements has its place, however, I don’t think it has necessarily been helpful in our first 50 days. In the first 14 days, I was constantly looking at these figures, when we would have a burst of users or something exciting happen I would get super excited and pumped, when it was slow it was demotivating.
That’s completely the wrong way of looking at growth in this stage.
Vanity was leading me to look at numbers, sanity led me to a different path, talking to our customers and understanding the value they got from using our and asking whether they were achieving success.
Not only did chatting with our customers help me focus on what was important; developing a product that worked for our clients and valuing the success of the individual. It guided a lot of our decisions that just looking at the numbers, especially this early on, wouldn’t do.
3. Lessons learnt.
Also similar to the incremental improvements — this has a slightly different mentality. Making improvements consistently is about productivity and moving forward, lessons learnt is about slowing down and reflecting. See as much as it’s important to grow, the way I want to build a business is through learning. I believe that’s the most successful way to develop longevity, a word that is scowled upon in towards world of raising cash and going hell for leather on any idea you can think of.
I don’t want to have a VC funded startup that goes from funding to funding, only to fail because we were pressured to raise capital before we worked out how to make a viable business. I want to build something slow, steady and sustainable and learning lessons is a big part of this — as long as we’re learning and reflecting, we’re moving forward.
So, in summary, I learnt that I have much to learn, I don’t know what I don’t know. But I know our startup is finding its feet and eventually, with consistent learning, incremental improving and focusing on the success of the one customer, we’ll develop a great business.