Does a startup need written down workflows or is it viable to do everything freestyle without any statutes?
One definition of a startup could be “the action or process of setting something in motion”. Another one could be “a startup is a company initiated by individual founders or entrepreneurs to search for a repeatable and scalable business model”. That sounds very straightforward: have an idea, develop a business model for it, if it goes well scale it, if not redefine your business model until you are able to scale. To my experience it is not that straightforward until a startup found a product or service that gets traction with paying customers and is able to scale it. The road to success looks more or less like the following:
There are lots of ups and downs especially with the through of sorrow. Most of the people don’t see the blood and sweat and tears, which is necessary that the curve goes sustainably up. Most of the people just see the success stories of big well-known names like Dropbox, Instagram, Facebook, Zalando and much more. Do you know that 9 out of 10 startups fail in the first 3 years? From those other 10% of “success” startups you probably heard nothing from most of them. So that is a number, which one should borne further in mind. But let’s talk more about the beginning of a startup.
There is no clear way or definition of which step should be taken after another to develop your startup to the next unicorn. Of course, there are different approaches, which should support you to go through the different steps a startup or new company goes through. Those steps or stages a startup normally goes through could be defined by means of the funding stage, as follows:
- Early Stage (Pre-Seed): Here you try out your first ideas, build a MVP (minimal viable product – about which I will probably write another blog post in the near future), get useful data out of your pilot tests, do a pivot if necessary, get a bit of traction – best with the first paying customers
- Seed Stage: Best case would be that you have a validated MVP, know the features your product needs to satisfy your customer and you could develop that now to a market ready product or service
- Growth and Establishment (Series A/B): Your product or service has a market readiness, your customers are happy and best rip you the product out of your hands, you are ready to scale your business to a higher level and higher sales
- Maturity (Later Series): You have a very good running business with a stable organization and sales and you look for other markets or internationalization
- Acquisition / IPO: Another company could need your customers, technology or people you have onboard. Or you need fresh new money for your bigger plans and visions.
More or less every company somehow goes through the above steps regardless if you go the way with investors or completely bootstrapped. There are different methodologies, which help you to go through the beginning of the pre-seed phase, like the Lean Startup Methodology. That will help you to get a MVP very fast and iterate so long until you should be able to start scale it.
Now the question is in the very beginning of a startup: are established processes overkill or is it necessary, that you will count to the 10%, who make it through the startup curve? My personal experience is that it would be good to define certain workflows, which are important for your business. Than everybody knows how to do special things. For example, every company needs a hiring workflow or a vacation workflow. If you are a software company, how will you develop new features? If you are a consulting company, how do you assign people to the projects? If you are medical institution, how are people able to get an appointment?
I think you don’t need to write down everything your company does and things will develop and grow as your business gets older. But a minimum capture of the most important workflows and steps, which are obvious for your business, will help you to keep track of them. And also, for new people it will be easier to get them onboard to your great journey of success. There are different ways to note workflows down. You could simply write them down in words and describe everything in a continuous text. Or you could use different types of charts like a flowchart or swim lane chart. The following shows an easy swim lane chart, that your employees are able to go to the beach or mountains and refuel a bit:
There are also different tools, which you could use to write down your workflows. You could just start e.g. with Power Point for very easy workflows. When you want it a bit more beautiful, standardized and some predefined help, you may want to look at Asana Work Management or Nintex. If you want to do even a bit more, also have your workflows supported by IT to track them and you also maybe want to develop your own actions, you could have a look at Camunda. It is an open source platform for workflow and decision automation, which should bring business users and software developers together.
Summarized I would say: indeed, it is good to write down the most important workflows your business has. But don’t overdo it, so that your organization can still breathe and have room for new stuff.
Hopefully the post was interesting for you and you enjoyed reading it! Have a great time until the next post will be published next month and enjoy hustling, relaxing, chilling, sporting, travelling or whatever you plan to do!
All the best – Mo ❤
P.S.: If you have questions, suggestions, criticism, an idea for a great new topic or just want to have a cup of coffee or a glass of wine or you want to work out with me please do not hesitate to contact me.