3 Ways to Cultivate Your Growth Mindset and Stay Forever Young

 In Startups, Thought Leadership

Setting the Record Straight On Startups

Like the name of our company (Simple Startup) suggests, we think a lot about startups, and for us the term “startup” is synonymous with a growth mindset, but historically the term doesn’t have much clarity. We think it’s time to set the record straight about what a startup business truly encompasses and how we think keeping the startup mindset will help your business stay forever young (yup, that’s a Rod Stewart reference).

How Do You Define Startup?

A startup business is a type of business, but from there it seems most sources don’t agree on what it constitutes. Merriam-Webster defines a startup as, “A fledgling business enterprise.” To me that sounds like a baby bird about to fly from its nest. Moving on to Investopedia, they share that a startup business refers to, “A company in the first stage of its operations.” Yet another definition that doesn’t really encapsulate the meaning of the term startup for us, especially when many people still consider established companies like Google as such. They were founded in 1998 and have revenues that exceed the GDP of many countries (including Iceland, the Bahamas, Guatemala, Bulgaria and Sierra Leone).

With these definitions in mind, the real question becomes, “At what point is a startup no longer a startup?” Is it when you reach profitability? After a certain year mark? Does progressive management define a startup? 

The Wilhelm Rule

TechCrunch writer, Alex Wilhelm, had the same question and took his own stab at the definition with his development of the 50-100-500 rule. As the terms of Wilhelm’s rule outline, if a company meets or exceeds any of the following criteria, it is no longer a startup:

  • $50 million or more in revenue run rate (forward 12 months)
  • 100 or more employees
  • A worth of more than $500 million 

As a fan of data, I love that Wilhelm takes a numeric approach to quantifying what it means to be a startup. I also find that these quantifiers are not as limiting as the myopic early stage definitions, but I still think the Wilhelm Rule is missing the intangible characteristics of a startup.

For those of us at Simple Startup, our answer to the question of when you stop being a startup is when you lose your growth mindset. Which brings us to our raison d’etre – what are startups getting so right that other companies lose in the long term?

What Are Startups Getting SO Right?

At their core, startups are proactive. They believe the status quo is simply not good enough. They don’t settle for less and they don’t wait for challenges to come to them. They ARE the challenger – always trying something new, prepared to fail fast, and ready for a quick pivot. And they have an uncanny ability to rally their team around a shared goal (startup culture is a real thing). 

In trying to emulate many of these characteristics ourselves, we began to think about how we can distill this proactive mindset for fellow companies who want to stay “forever young”. As such, we’ve developed 3 tips for entrepreneurs to learn how to cultivate their own startup mindset.

Believe The Sky’s the Limit

Startup businesses are hungry for high growth. Which means they’re looking for new opportunities and they’re thinking creatively about how to find them and how to build them. To underline this point, in an Inc. Magazine article, Joe Galvin, the Chief Research Officer at Vistage, found that high growth companies are: 

  • 37% more likely to rely on radical innovations
  • 39% more likely to develop new processes to improve existing products and services
  • 50% more likely to provide new products and services
  • 58% more likely to develop patentable technologies

At their core, startup businesses are designed to grow fast and are not afraid to take advantage of risky situations in search of that great reward. Like bringing a new product to market that consumers go crazy for but didn’t know they needed even last month.

Tip #1

Our first tip is to hearken back to all those conversations about the “it’s not possible” opportunity and figure out how to make it possible – the reward is worth the risk! And if you’re not having regular brainstorm sessions within your company to improve your business model and modify your strategy, this is a good place to start.

See the Potential In Everything

Another thing startups have going for them is their ability to always see the glass as half full and seeing how to harness and mold that potential for their business model. Not only are startups bringing new products and services to market, they’re re-imagining how they can be used, the vehicle with which customers can consume them, or revolutionizing an entire industry. Recent market examples of this are Uber, Rent the Runway, and Casper. Each has been a game changer for their industry – so how do you do this?

Tip #2

In the view of a startup entrepreneur, the economy, consumers, technology – nothing is static – EVERYTHING is always changing. Because of this they look for ways to leverage that change by finding the potential and folding it into their business model. In your own firm, you too can figure out how to harness change by asking yourself:

  • Do I recognize changes in the market? 
  • Am I anticipating changes in my industry and others?
  • How can I leverage that change for my target customers?
  • What challenges can I turn into opportunities?
  • What are other industries doing that I can bring to my own?

If you’re always seeing through the rose colored glasses of potential, you’ll never find yourself having to pivot under reactive pressure.

Break All the Rules

Startup entrepreneurs are RULE BREAKERS! They’re the Picasso of the business model. The way things have always been done is un-important and swept aside in favor of reconstructing and rebuilding with a nod to the future (oooo!). So how can you bring this to your own business? It’s all about making it part of your culture.

Tip #3

Implementing cultural change takes time and commitment. Start with the messaging your senior team is sharing with the company at a high level – that innovation, experimentation and idea sharing is welcome. Now drive that point home, from the top down and the bottom up. Make sure all employees understand that you want them to fancy themselves as the Picassos of their time and see where it can take the company. Delivering an endless supply of local granola bars to fuel employee innovation certainly helps too.

The Startup State of Mind

Whether you agree with Wilhelm’s Rule or you’ve settled on your own definition of what it means to be a startup, my view has always been that “Startup” is a state of mind and one you should hold onto long after a revenue goal or employee count is hit. Startups share a tendency for working hard and working fast towards innovation – that’s really their strategy. Ultimately, the definition you choose to place on your business is your own, but we hope you will never let yourself succumb to a fixed mindset. After all, that’s where the high risk, high reward opportunities can be found.

If you’re ready to find the unlimited potential in your company and find opportunities for growth, it’s time to speak with a Simple Startup Advisor. Rod Stewart couldn’t have put it better when he said, “Whatever road you choose, I’m right behind you, win or lose, forever young, forever young, forever young…”

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