When Airbnb experienced a period of hypergrowth, it did what any company would do—it quickly hired as many talented people as it could.
However, the data science department soon noticed a problem: Almost all of the new hires were men. In a company founded on diverse collaboration and fostering a sense of universal belonging, having a key department so off-kilter from company goals was cause for alarm.
Executives quickly took action to not only amend the problem but to also address what created it. They doubled their ratio of female data scientists (now at 30 percent) and revised hiring practices to better reflect gender equality. Next, they aimed to focus on cultural and racial diversity in hiring. In the end, Airbnb’s steadfast vision for its company not only fixed an HR oversight, but it also made its team stronger and more inclusive than ever before.
As entrepreneurs, we have ideas about what our company will become. We dream about the success we hope to attain or the impact we aspire to make. We even plan for how and when we’ll reach benchmarks along the way.
But oftentimes, we’re so caught up in dealing with the individual tasks, functions, and responsibilities of running a business that we lose sight of the big picture. What many of us fail to recognize is that defining our end goals—our ultimate destination—from the start may actually be the key to reaching that pinnacle of success.
Pinpointing your company’s destination
From the time I launched my company years ago, I knew I wanted to be the best in our specific area of expertise in the PR industry.
Focusing on that destination from the very beginning gave me the confidence to make bold moves and pave my own path. It pushed me to build a team that shared my vision and determination. It kept everyone on track and gave us something concrete to work toward. It also helped me avoid costly detours and harmful mistakes. Today, I can happily say my company is thriving and I’m where I always wanted to be.
Declaring your destination from the earliest planning stages will give you and your team that same laser focus when growing your startup. It will ensure your end goals are built into the foundation of your company, woven through every business plan and etched into every executive decision.
To identify and define your company’s destination, you must:
1. Own your future
Most entrepreneurs have a vision of what they want out of their startups. Some want fame and fortune; others want power and prestige; still others want to create change. But so few own that vision.
For whatever reason, they don’t say it out loud, share it with their teams, or build it into their daily mantras—let alone include it in their business plans. Perhaps that’s one reason the four-year startup failure rate hovers around 60 percent for many industries.
Never launch your business without knowing full well where you want to go. Ensure your destination is your own vision, not some preconceived notion of how your company should be operating. Otherwise, you won’t have the passion and dedication needed to succeed. Whatever your destination, own it, speak of it often, and watch your dreams come to life.
2. Find your niche
You can’t be the best at everything. Instead of wasting your time trying, carve out a niche that you can truly dominate, then expand your horizons as your company grows. That way, you’re not one in a million—you’re just number one.
For example, PensterDocs managed to carve out its own niche in the highly saturated document management app market. The comprehensive pet-information repository stores your furry friend’s vaccinations, upcoming vet appointments, and health records. The app even has sharing capabilities in case you need to share your pet’s profile with family members, pet sitters, or vet clinic staff members.
Take a closer look at your situation, your market, the talent, and the opportunities. Conducting a SWOT analysis can be helpful here. Is there anything unique to your situation that could work to your advantage or hold you back? Are you passionate about or adept in any particular area of your industry? Is anyone on your team packing serious skills or expertise that could give your company an upper hand? Pinpointing your niche early on will set you on the fast track to success.
3. Assemble a team that shares your vision
Building a talented, dedicated team can fundamentally change your company. Focus on hiring partners and leaders who share your commitment to your destination. That’s not to say that your office should become an echo chamber, though—according to Scientific American, a socially diverse staff will spur greater innovation. Look for individuals who can challenge your assumptions, bring new ideas to the decision-making table, and drive you toward your shared destination.
When I started my company Mitchell, my first full-time hire was my biggest competitor, someone who was working for his brother’s company at the time. I convinced him to join my venture by conveying my passion for building Mitchell into the best in the industry—a vision he soon shared with me. Getting him on board was a game changer. With our combined efforts and united vision for our destination, our business and our team grew exponentially.
4. Seek out (or build) a community
Learning from others is a huge part of building a successful business. The best way to gather tons of useful information and unique insight is by connecting with mentors, peers, and other entrepreneurs.
Building these connections also gives you the opportunity to grow your business by establishing mutually beneficial relationships. In fact, according to HubSpot, 85 percent of professionals say in-person meetings help them forge stronger, more meaningful business relationships.
Join professional communities related to your industry. If you find there aren’t business networks in your area, consider starting a community or organization yourself. It’s the perfect way to learn from the experiences of others, build reciprocity-driven business relationships, and assert yourself as a leader in your industry.
To succeed in today’s business world, you have to be unique, hardworking, and focused on your end goals. Avoid distractions and detours by declaring your company’s destination from the very start. Then, start forging your path.