As a consultant I know I can go into a company with big growth and sell my services. I know this because I know they are suffering growing pains. Anytime you go from 10 customers to 10,000 in a there are a lot of hurdles to overcome. Hurdles like the following:
- Unable to keep up with demand, can not ship fast enough
- No communication infrastructure(internal/external)
- Unable to hire new team members quick enough, you end up hiring your cousin's boyfriend just because he has a pulse.
These hurdles are not easy to overcome when you do this in 12 years much less 12 months. I am not just talking about what you ship either. I am talking about your processes, your infrastructure, even you own personal ability to manage your business. All of these things take time to grow or there will be pains.
Maybe you are venture backed and you can throw money on all these little fires to put them out. But that is just damage control after the damage is done. Wouldn't you rather avoid these pains of time?
I am not talking about building an efficient scalable infrastructure before your product has been validated. Hell no, that is a fools gamble(one I must admit I made when I was younger). Validate the market and your products place in it long before you invest in scaling.
I am talking about a way to control growth after you have those first 10-100 sales. If you control your growth then you control the fate of your product. The question is how do I control my growth?. Even the biggest tech juggernauts use these methods to ensure the best end result for their products. Lets look at google's process:
A very google product launch:
Anytime google launches a new service like Google Plus or Google Glasses. They didn't just open up the floodgates and say "come on in everyone". They released the service in waves. First internally, then to a small group of VIP's, advisors, and trusted early adopters.
Once they have gathered feedback from all of these people and used that to polish up the product they released a limited number of invites. Again they used that feedback to polish the product and gauge growth. They then could budget the appropriate amount of resources. Google continued to make improvements and iterate until they had a very polished product and they could predict their growth rate with extreme precision. At this point they could boot up the right amount of servers and put together an adequate customer support team and open the doors for the world.
Check out this Foundation interview with one of the google engineers that worked on plus
What are the benefits to controlling your growth?
When you start out your product is going to be rough. In order to forge the best possible product you will need to polish it by getting lots and lots of feedback then making improvements based on that feedback. Too much feedback can be overwhelming. By releasing only to a small group at first you can control the flow of feedback. You can’t control what they say but you can at least make sure it comes at a pace you can handle.
Gives you time to prepare:
Your staff of 10 maybe able to handle 100 or even 1000 customers, but can they handle 10,000? Even if you could hire a staff of 100 people tomorrow could you manage them? How would you train them?
I talk about culture a lot, with this many new hires all at once will they have time to adapt to your culture or will they, more likely, bring in their own? That could be a good thing or a bad thing, but my point is you don't have a say in it anymore if it grows at a rate you can’t control.
Creates the Red Velvet Rope:
The red velvet rope separates those that want to get into the club from those on the inside. Those outside behind the red velvet rope are lining up to get inside dreaming of what might be going on inside. Maybe it is a great party, maybe it is not but by keeping that line on the outside you create that demand that only grows the more people get in line. Just don't keep them waiting too long.
_I have to credit Book Yourself Solid: by Michael Port for this concept. It has been a great benefit to my business
Who should I invite/when?
This depends on what stage your business as a whole is at.
Your existing team:
Always start with your existing team. They are getting paid to be there right? Not just you development team, but everyone on your staff from the customer service team to the janitor.
Assuming you have that initial traction and are starting to gather a public following, but are not launched or are launching a new feature/product you will want to start with those you trust and won't judge you immediately when they find a rough edge or bug in the product.
Once the obvious and basic stuff is covered it is time to bring the experts in to find the higher level problems. This feedback is key from going from good to great.
Early adaptors is a term coined in Chrossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore. It defined the small section of potential customers that really want to be on the cutting edge of technology. These are the easiest to sell. Luckily for us it is getting easier and easier to find these guys. They are hanging out in places like Kickstarter.com every day.
From niche to worldwide.
The Google example I used earlier shows how a big company would roll out a new product but lets examine another example I know you are all familiar with but probably don't realize how they played being small to their advantage.
Lets look at Facebook. If you were in college as Facebook was rising to power you may remember counting the days until Facebook launched on your campus. Now do you think that writing the lines of code to open up the floodgates and allow everyone to sign up were what kept them from allowing all colleges to sign up? Do you think Zuck’s ambition only grew 2-3 colleges at a time? Their roll out was immaculately engineered to give them time to build the infrastructure behind their technology as well as their internal processes. There was very little left to chance with Facebook's product launch, though they did a great job of making it look quite effortless
Don't be like that couch potato that gets off the couch and thinks they can run a marathon, they are going to get cramps and could possibly get seriously hurt. Plan it out and take it one step at a time, taking on a little more each week until you are ready for the big marathon.