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3 ways your company will benefit from a lean business stack

Throughout life we’re often reminded to stay in the present. That leaning too far into the future means we add a level of unnecessary strain on our lives today. We’re told the future isn’t guaranteed and that it’s important to slow down, smell the roses and invest in the current moment. That if we don’t, we’ll spend more time worrying than we do living.

But we push back. As a result, we live our lives somewhere between the present and our next big milestone.

In business, we do the same thing — except that the consequences differ.

We project change (or more specifically growth) and we execute against it.

Where that gets us in trouble is the commitments we make in anticipation of the future. We do our best to forecast and deliver against our numbers, but considering all of the variables that go into that work, those numbers are unstable to say the least. And yet, we bet the bank on them. We commit to things like technology, operational processes, rapid hiring and office space that bind us to our predictions.

In some cases, everything goes as planned and the early investment is well worth it. In many cases, there are a few surprises hiding around the bend, plans change and we’re left affording unnecessary commitments.

We’ve seen this in the news a lot recently — promising Unicorns and established tech giants missing targets and re-evaluating projections. As a result, they’ve been forced to slow hiring (take Zenefits for example who is cutting costs after struggling to meet investor expectations) or initiate massive layoffs. High valuations don’t protect these guys from the natural instability of business despite the fact that they have entire teams dedicated to measuring and predicting the future.

A few examples to note:

– HotelTonight – In 2013, their office was featured on TC Cribs. Today, it’s partially vacant as the company laid off 20% of its staff

– Gameloft – Recently shut down an entire NY office after laying off over 100 employees in July

– Twitter – Cutting 8% of their workforce and mobile app

– Flipagram – Laid off 20% of their employees because they hired too fast and lacked efficiencies that would have sustained growth

– Snapchat – Settled into a 12,000 foot space in Marina del Rey when they decided to shut down their Snap Channel

What’s important is finding a balance. To forecast growth, execute against projections but keep your present business agile. You’ll see two main benefits from doing so:

1. You won’t bog down your business as it stands today with the cost and management associated with resources you may or may not need tomorrow.

2. Should your projections become reality, an agile foundation will allow your business to adjust to its changing environment in real time.

I’ll give you the full scoop on how we keep things agile at PivotDesk in an upcoming Been There, Done That post. Keep an eye out!

In the meantime, I’ve asked the team at Stacklist to share their two cents. These guys are aggregating highly recommended tools specifically for evolving businesses in order to help us build smarter, more agile business stacks as we grow.

Below is part one of a two part series they were kind enough to share.

(Part one is a look at the Why. Later this week we’ll share part two: Stacklist’s advice on the how.)




3 Ways your company will benefit from a lean business stack

by Naomi Newman, VP Content & Research at Stacklist 


Your product, your brand, your bottom line. These are the three most important things to focus on when you’re building a business. Tools will help you get there, but they’ve also been known to complicate things.

We often find people getting carried away with their business stack — bringing on a plethora of tools that take the team away from core areas of focus and require a great deal of hands on implementation. The trouble is, most of these tools are there to support future growth and when you bring on resource intensive work that doesn’t support the business as it stands today, they serve as a distraction. As a result, you’ll see a drop in the results that matter to you today.


What are the top 3 ways your business benefits from a lean business stack?

#1: Limit distraction. Why spend time identifying appropriate tools and learning how to use them effectively, when you could be using all of that valuable time to build/sell/promote your core product? One of our favorite bits of advice is that, when launching a company, just launch it and start moving! Leave the tool search for later.

“Focus less on the tools and more on what you’re building. In the beginning, we hacked together everything, or used completely free tools, and I think that’s the right way to do it. There are definitely some great tools out there, but you can’t let them use you—you have to use them.” –Derek Flanzraich, Founder & CEO of Greatist

There are so many tools out there, the tricky thing is to manage them all. It’s nice to have tools, but sometimes we have feature creep when we’re using too many things. You first have to figure out your system of how you like to use tools.” – Sophie Koven, Founder of GoKid


#2: Minimize unnecessary expenses. In seed stage, money is a huge concern. So it’s not surprising that 42% of the Stacklist community says cost is the biggest factor when selecting tools (47% of those are seed stage). But many of those same companies also note that you shouldn’t bring on cumbersome tools just because they’re cheap.

“We’re fortunate to be in a time where there are tons of free or very low-cost tools that can get the job done, so it’s perfectly realistic to find tools that won’t burn your budget.” – Layla Tabatabaie, CEO of BarterSugar


#3: Avoid switching costs down the road. Some of the best advice we’ve received from fellow founders is not to spend too much time finding the perfect tools in the beginning. Why? In the early days, most founders don’t even know exactly what they need, and they haven’t yet identified their internal processes and particular pain points. Also, switching costs are particularly painful for early-stage companies who truly have zero time to spare – so don’t get locked in!

“Only get apps as you really need them. Don’t waste your money and time trying everything out. You can get quite a bit done with just some core tools. And only expand when/if you need them.” – Alex Cote, co-founder of Cloze

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