You have a great idea for a startup: now what?
To reach your goals, you need to prioritize execution, or how you carry out your plans. It’s not enough to have a great idea: you have to implement it effectively.
That was the topic of Sean Henry, CEO of STORD’s, ‘Building Your Dream’ talk at TEDxEmory 2019 on February 23. What follows are the 6 rules he shared for how to execute on your big idea.
1. Force yourself to take action
You have to take the first step, even when the destination is unclear. It’s too complicated to say “just do it,” so “just start” is the only route that makes sense. And as you move forward, piece by piece, you’ll find that you compound success over time. In STORD’s case, taking the first step meant calling warehouses and shippers to see if our solution aligned with their needs. Today, we move over $200 million of product each month.
2. Listen to your customers and the market
It’s important to realize you don’t have all the answers and research the problems you want to solve. The best companies are built on listening to what their customers want, not on knowing everything from the beginning. Early on, we went through the Dynamo Accelerator in Chattanooga, a program that connected us with big brands so we could better understand the problems they struggled with. We used insights from that experience to pioneer a new model of warehousing and transportation: networked distribution.
3. Leave room for iteration
Obsess over the problem you’re trying to solve, instead of a specific solution. And keep listening to your customers as you grow, so you can adapt to what they tell you over time. When we started STORD, we originally had a warehousing solution that was similar, but not identical, to the one we offer now. We pivoted to our current model based on customer feedback.
4. Commit to your vision
Moving a large-scale problem takes consistent effort over a long period of time. It’s so easy to get pushed off course, or to lose focus. But if you want to create a great customer solution, you have to show up every day and put in the necessary hours and work. When we raised our seed funding in April of 2018, we knew we couldn’t let that achievement take away any of our motivation. We used the investment to keep building and growing.
5. Grow strategically
You have to be willing to scale with your customers, sometimes even ahead of their needs. Then, as your business grows, focus your energy on the things that you’re the best at and hire the right people for everything else. Expanding your team over time and building an organization are much different than early-stage growth because they require more strategy and planning. That’s how we quadruped our headcount in 2018: based on customers’ needs and the roles we wanted to fill to enable future success.
6. Be patient and plan ahead
Build for the long term. Don’t ever short-change your ultimate goals, no matter how tempting it is to optimize for the immediate future. The best companies plan as many as 30, or even 100 years ahead. That kind of long-term thinking is a core value at STORD. We’re proud of the volume we’ve moved, the awards we’ve won, and the relationships we’ve built, but we have even bigger plans for the future.
People have big dreams every day that never pan out: plans to innovate, solve meaningful problems, or create something new. Recognize that you have the ability to drive change, and then execute your idea.