It’s crazy how fast the summer flew by.
As the summer comes to a close, look back at those “successes” you had in your company and in your family life and celebrate those before you head into the next season.
As my friend and mentor Seth always reminds me, gratitude is the key for us ambitious types to continually remind us that life is about the journey… not those goals (that always seem to move once you hit them).
The past 3 months has been amazing in many ways.
Business has grown past a really important milestone and goal we set for ourselves. Profits right on target with our estimates (even though our total revenues are below estimates, which I’m not complaining about!). Our customers are doing amazing things with our software and getting results that no other company in our industry can touch. And our team here at Carrot is growing. We added another full-time Customer Success Hero in July and are adding another in September.
Things are great. But…
But also in these last 3 months I’ve been going through one of the biggest learning curves I’ve ever had to go through as a startup CEO.
You see, in my previous companies we were always really lean. Just a few people tops.
So I was used to doing a lot of the day to day things in the company. Marketing, helping with customer support when needed, higher level admin stuff my assistant couldn’t handle, etc.
And I’ve been doing those things with Carrot as well. But this spring as we grew well past the million dollar per year run rate, I a noticed momentum shift on the near horizon.
And not in a good way.
It was a silent shift in the works. I don’t think the rest of the team felt it. But I did.
As revenues and customer counts were climbing… and customer satisfaction was at all-time highs as well… behind the scenes I was seeing something that a lot of growing startups experience.
Bottlenecks and backlog. Silent Killers.
We use a project management software (we use asana.com) that tracks our projects, tasks, and priorities. A red date means the project is past due. A green date means you’ve still got time.
¾ of the projects I had a role in were red.
And it wasn’t because the other team members weren’t doing their job.
They were doing great.
It was because I had placed myself in the middle of the process, kind of like the hub on a bike wheel, on so many things.
I’d “delegate” something out 80% of the way, only to require a small part of the project to come back to me before it was launched. And that 20% I “had” to do held the whole project for everyone because I was in the middle of 10-15 projects at once.
(Since then for the projects I do have to stay in, I use the 10/80/10 principal… and love it).
I was a bottleneck preventing the rest of my team from getting things done. I was the cause of that momentum shift I felt brewing.
So we dove in this spring and took action.
I empowered my team members to take on more responsibility, remove me from the processes that I wasn’t critical in, and just trust them to put out high quality work. And they did.
Then we beefed up our “key performance indicators” so I could track overall trends on each department on a weekly basis rather than me be in the weeds on everything every day.
Last, I’ve had to really rethink my role in my company.
And it’s a liberating but weird feeling.
I’m realizing that anything I do that is not in my unique ability, the thing I’m great at and love to do, I’m holding back part of the company. So we’re in team building mode right now.
We’ll add another 1-3 new team members to Carrot, our Roseburg, Oregon based software startup before the end of the year.
That’ll push our head count close to double digits for the first time and help us grow our revenue a lot faster, and help us cement ourselves as the leader in this small corner of a large industry we’re going after.
So, if you find your own company losing momentum… even if the numbers don’t show it but you feel it… look at your projects and “to-do’s” and if you see too many half-done projects, past-due projects, and loose ends… find the bottlenecks.
Work through those, and remove yourself as the CEO from as many of the things you’re currently doing as possible.
4 responses to “My Biggest Growth Lesson So Far As A Startup CEO – Momentum and Bottlenecks”
Thanks for the candid share, Trevor. It’s an interesting feeling you’re experiencing. Most business owners frankly own a job, and their “baby” never grows beyond toddler stage, always dependent on the parent for every decision, meeting basic needs, and so forth. Many fewer businesses than those started reach a stage where things happen mostly independently of the founder’s direct actions. Well done, and inspiring story. Keep up the great work and I’m sure your team will continue to perform at a high level. They’re working for a great guy!
Danny! Really appreciate the comment man. It means a lot from you. I’m still in the midst of this transition so while you’re in it it doesn’t always feel like it’s beyond a job haha. But we’re getting there my man! The key this point forward with Carrot is recruiting amazing team members to help us achieve our mission and make a bigger impact together then we can alone. Totally different mindset then I’ve ever had with another company. A challenge but fun. I appreciate it again man!
I gave this a re-read in the midst of launching another start-up business with some friends from the 6th grade. I am totally borrowing your “Customer Success Hero” terminology. I think that’ll have people who work for a company really own the idea that they’re what makes the company special and human to customers.
Not to mention that someone on the team is swiping the tone and structure of your “About-us page” OnCarrot model you blogged about too, recently…as we speak. Yay for teams!
Danny! I love it man! Run w/ it and crush it dude. 🙂