Growth by Transition: Steps to Take Your Startup Far

Every startup dreams of being viable. It may not seem like a major aspiration, but when you get right down to it, there’s nothing simple about that goal. Almost all startups fail and that’s because big dreams so rarely transition into successful strategy, into products, and into genuine processes.

Running a successful startup is really about your ability to transition and to keep taking the right steps down the road to viability. This is usually called pivoting, but there’s so much more to the ability to transition than changing your market focus and the product you’re building.

Transitioning is as holistic a process as it gets. It’s about finding opportunities and turning them them into defined strategies.  It’s about turning ideas into products. It’s about turning your personal vision into a partnership. It’s about turning the people that make up your team into essential pieces of your process. And most of all, it’s about turning the story of your company into a lasting brand.

Opportunity to Strategy


Startups are made by their ability to recognize spaces for opportunity. That means locating markets where there is room for innovation and developing a solution to a problem you see there.

The unfortunate truth is that many companies only see the opportunity and don’t know what to do with that information. They fail to transition and as a consequence, they fail in general. Worse still, they see too many opportunities and fail to narrow their focus on a specific market with specific goals of how to address their interests.

That kind of focus is what good strategy is all about. You can’t solve any problem so don’t bother trying. Focus on one, big problem that you recognize and put all your effort into building an infrastructure around it. If it’s clearly not working then that’s the moment where you transition into the next opportunity and start all over again.

Ideas to Products

This transition works best when you narrow your focus too. In theory, a lot of ideas are great, but it doesn’t work so well in practice. Too many ideas die before they turn into real products.

Start with smaller projects and deliverables and recognize which of those initiatives your clients or customers are responding to best. Once you have a strong pattern, transition those ideas into products. They’ve proven that they work so clearly it’s time to turn them into something that lasts and something that can make you real money.

People to Team

There’s a reason why investors value a good team so highly. You can’t get anywhere without good people to make these transitions happen, but a good team isn’t as simple as having good people around you.

It’s true that the first and most important piece is to find team members and partners that believe as strongly in your vision as you do, and people who have the skills you need to accomplish every new goal, but that’s still only the first step.

Inevitability, partners and team members will come and go. That means turning your reliance on people into a reliance on a specific kind of structure. That’s what building a team is all about.

When you can turn the expertise of those original people into defined practices and roles that anyone can fit in then there’s no need to worry about when some people on your team decide it’s time to move on. 

Process to Brand

All the pieces that it takes to build a good brand usually come together by accident. Those meaningful relationships that you build along the way and the processes you develop are what are going to define who you are as a company.

Brand is just a fancy way of dressing up the kinds of customers and clients your company works for and the way that you get the job done for those people. As you build the structure that will turn your company from a dream to a well-oiled machine, the pieces of that framework are what will define your brand. It’s just a matter of learning how to sell that framework.

What does your company do and how does it accomplish those intentions? What kind of audience does it work toward and how does it serve them? Who are the people that make those dreams happen and what do they do?

These are the questions to ask when building a brand and they are probably the questions you should be asking anyway if you have any hope to be that small percentage that transitions toward success.

— ZK

Ed Lynes13p5Comment