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7 Essential Strategies for Startup Sustainability

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Creating a startup can be a wild ride, rocketing from the thrill of launch to crash-and-burn in a matter of months. A few decades ago, Fortune 500 companies could count on being around for at least a half-century. Most now last about 15 years. And the average startup? The lifespan is just three years.

Today's business environment demands speed and transparency, and the key to longevity is building a company that matters. Marketplace survivors have become the obvious choice -- to customers, investors, teams, employees and even competitors. Successful companies lead the pack without leaving it behind. They anticipate and embrace disruption in ways that enable their markets to grow.

Our research identifies seven key factors that help leaders successfully launch a business and position it for long-term success:

1. Build a Dream Team. Companies that matter need top-notch people who can quickly assess market needs, develop an elevated perspective and, most critically, execute on decisions. This isn't the time to hire your buddies. Talented people with meaningful insight will create the foundation for a company that takes off successfully and continues to soar.

2. Employ a Telescopic Lens. It's natural to want to celebrate every transaction, but keep your eyes on the long view. A company with a buy/sell mindset will be plagued by shortsighted decisions. Decision-making that considers the market, the community and society at large is critical to sustaining relevance. Keep a keen eye out for potentially disruptive evolutions, and quickly figure out how to make them work for you.

3. Anticipate and Share. Foresight and futurecasting are powerful assets that help you dominate your market by anticipating customers' needs and wants. Leaders must stay attuned to what the future holds -- and how to thrive in disruption. Openness to doing things differently is essential. And the best way to gain credibility and ensure the health of the market is to be willing to share that wisdom with others in your organization.


4. Partner Strategically. Companies that matter know how to connect with the right high-value partners and build trusting, open relationships. Don't waste energy on partnerships that don't clearly align with company goals. Remember that by definition, partnerships are mutually beneficial. Both sides get value out of identifying problems and creating solutions. Each invests in success for the benefit of both.

5. Fixate on Value. In today's marketplace, hungry competitors are constantly prowling. It's not enough to offer super products or great service. Envision a full spectrum of value, where customer problems are solved and changes in the industry are anticipated and addressed. Customers and clients will flock to companies that provide resources and solutions.

6. Attend to Growing Pains. From a market share perspective, a startup has different goals than a mature company. Startups are hungry and hard-driving. With growth and maturity, leaders must consciously shift the culture. It's essential that decisions and actions align with company aspirations. Successful leaders foster collaboration. This might mean altering organizational structures and taking the time to make sure everyone understands strategies and values.

7. Be courageous. Facing disruption, rather than fighting it, takes bravery and will. Companies that discover and deliver on new opportunities are investing in longevity. Consider Adobe, which saw its market dominance wane as technology changed and competitors emerged. Instead of digging in, the company redefined itself and seized the opportunities a disrupted market was providing. Adobe helped define the new market, and it became the obvious choice.

Startup companies need an expansive, wise perspective on the now and the future to successfully grow and create sustainability. While these tips can help a company get firmly established, they remain relevant as the company matures. A sustainable evolution -- from a hungry launch to a healthy enterprise -- means staying connected with the world you're growing into. By maintaining perspective, and making sure your company culture is aligning with your growth as well, you can get to the front -- and stay there.

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