What do startups need to succeed? Incremental changes, that’s what

But you already do stuff for your startup every day, right? Typically, you’ll perform operational tasks like closing a sales deal, handle support issues or pay the bills. But you also need to do things that actually improve the running of your startup and therefore better position you to succeed, such as:

  1. Documenting a process
  2. Improving a system
  3. Refining a strategy
  4. Streamlining a workflow
  5. Or building your team’s capabilities through mentorship


Some leaders operate by knowing what to do and then doing those tasks themselves. They will often comment that it is just faster to do it themselves with “if you want it done right, then do it yourself”. This approach doesn’t scale as your startup grows. By creating processes and documenting them, you can capture the knowledge and share it with your whole team so everyone’s more equipped to contribute to the business’s success. Also, the act of documenting processes often highlights where improvements could be made.



Think of this approach as strategic versus tactical. Or, as the E-Myth (one of our recommended books) famously says “work on your business, not in your business”.


But how do you find time to be strategic every day when you’re so busy?

The answer is: in small steps.

The next time your salesperson asks you a question about your product, instead of just answering the question, take a minute to create a simple page on your internal wiki that captures the question and answer. Or create a short knowledge base article and send them the link. This will build a body of knowledge related to your startup and will provide a useful resource for the future. These small steps add up quickly and before you know it you have a growing library of useful information. This best practice can be contagious within your startup, especially if you encourage your team to contribute or improve the information over time.


Set aside a time for reflection and improvement

In the agile software development world there is typically a monthly meeting called the retrospective meeting. This is a meeting (usually 30-60 minutes) for stakeholders in an area of the business – it could be the development team or even the sales team – to reflect on the prior month and identify efforts or projects that went well, and ones that didn’t. The outcome of this meeting should be group consensus on one or two small changes to see if improvements can be made. These improvements are then assessed again at the next retrospective meeting.



This mechanism for reflection and process improvement may seem slow at first but these small, incremental changes add up quickly and can have a huge impact on your startup’s success over a few months. Some agile practitioners have even stated that the retrospective is the most important part of agile because it facilitates process change and makes anything else possible!


Did you know? This retrospective concept existed long before agile. It was often called a “postmortem” at the end of a project! But postmortem had negative connotations, and often focused on blame. Plus, the meeting came too late to help the project, so was only beneficial to future projects.


What small change are you going to make today to drive your startup to succeed? Write it down right now and make it happen today. Then do another one tomorrow, then the next day and so on…