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How to Build a Resilient, Agile Startup that Stands the Test of Time

“Don’t worry about failure; you only have to be right once.” — Drew Houston, Dropbox Co-Founder, and CEO. 

Your startup is the living symbol of your life’s passion and your hopes and dreams of achieving financial success, but like every venture, it carries its share of risk. About 10% of startups fail within the first year and indeed, making mistakes is common for startups between years two to five as well.

Entrepreneurship inherently involves a risk of failure, but the last thing you need as a business founder is to sit back and passively wait for the proverbial flood to wash your business away. Instead, by being ready for upcoming storms, you can demonstrate exactly how far agility, flexibility, and preparedness will take you and your business ideas.


Putting Customers First

Statistics show that most successful businesses face a sudden drop in revenue and profit growth. As stated by business experts Chris Zook and James Allen, this rarely happens because the business model itself is obsolete.

Instead, it is because as businesses grow, bureaucracy or internal dysfunction can slow down growth, distort information, or make it harder for management to make quick decisions and act on them swiftly. However, this plateau can be overcome by taking a customer-centric approach.

According to these experts’ research, startups that have made it for the long haul are those staffed by people who take up the fight on behalf of customers. They place most of their energy on the frontline (where the business and the customer meet), value long-term results, and embrace responsibility for how resources are utilized.


Reducing Unnecessary Costs

When startups need to take a new direction, expand their line of products, or find new shareholders, they need to have significant savings to depend upon. As such, even if you are enjoying great success in your first year or first few years, it is vital to lower potential costs.

One way to do so is to conduct risk assessments in various areas of their operations, including financial, operational reputational, legal, and industry-specific risks. Key collaborations need to be entered into with specialists in various areas of risk.

For instance, startups whose activities are focused on heavy machinery or construction can consult with injury lawyers concerning legal protections, while also liaising closely with specialists who can help place a sound injury prevention strategy in place.


Getting Ready to Scale

Startups’ efforts can get stuck or stall because they do not have the infrastructure or wherewithal to scale up. To avoid chaotic results and unpredictable results, startups can plan to scale by setting SMART goals for their future. SMART is an acronym used to describe goals which are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.

Companies can also benefit from increasing management teams so they can continue to guide employees and keep them focused. Another wise investment involves the hiring of specialists in research, marketing, sales, and other areas whose drive and results can ignite greater commitment in other team members.

Having a team of specialists behind you can also ensure that you are continually creating new products and services and that you have the means to reach the right target audience to let them know about your innovations. Equally vital is investing in technology and infrastructure to boost your competitiveness, reduce cybersecurity risks, and improve your overall efficiency.


Learning from Setbacks

Resilience is the ability to bounce back despite facing curveballs in business, and one of the most powerful ways to develop this quality is to pause and analyze potential changes to your business model.

One of the best ways to see what resilience looks like in action is to turn to successful case studies. Take the case of PartySlate, a Chicago-based online platform that connects event planners with leading professionals and venues. During COVID, lockdown and strict regulations meant that a myriad of events were cancelled—including weddings, one of the biggest sources of income streams for event-centered businesses.

PartySlate increased their communication with their clients, working alongside them to rebuild and create unique experiences for people holding events. They also managed to increase organic traffic to their site 12 times over, by investing in SEO and ensuring the company ranked locally for thousands of keywords across 25 different locations. 


Practicing Self-Care

Self-care may be a buzzword in the health and wellness sector. Ensuring your physical and mental health are on point is crucial if you are to have the energy and wherewithal to develop new strategies to deal with setbacks. Entrepreneurship and startup management are two of the most stressful jobs in business.

One study by the American Psychological Association found that small business owners are far more likely to report high-stress levels than those working in larger organizations. Not only does stress lead to burnout, but it also affects your daily productivity. Prioritizing self-care isn’t as difficult or time-consuming as it seems.

It simply involves exercising regularly (for at least half an hour a day), delegating tasks, taking breaks, seeking support, and setting boundaries so you can enjoy a good work-life balance.


Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

As a startup founder, it is crucial to build and maintain a solid support structure; one made up of trusted investors, mentors, and caring individuals who can guide you toward the right path and provide you with ideas based upon their years of experience in business.

This network can comprise people who support you personally as well as those who can share valuable insight in your area of speciality.


As a startup founder, you definitely can’t avoid curveballs, but you definitely can build up the resilience you need to rise after every hiccup. Start by identifying potential challenges and creating a comprehensive strategy so you already have a Plan B and C in mind should Plan A go sour.

Invest in specialists who will help you scale up, take preventive measures to lower your risks, and surround yourself with knowledgeable, trustworthy guides who can share their own business highs and lows with you… and point you to directions you may not have considered.

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