As the founder of a startup company, your initial strategy will evolve over time. How do you continue to grow and develop that strategy to meet changing markets, technologies, and new opportunities?

The beginning

While it may be hard to admit, your initial idea was likely a bad one. Perhaps not in general concept, but because it lacked a firm starting point or research into the market and the real opportunity. From that initial idea, you likely did some research – into the competition among other things – and you integrated some of what you learned into your original concept, making the idea better.

Though your strategy may have been yours initially, part of evolving requires a mindset focused on both what you know, and what you don’t know. What you know as you grow includes input from employees, clients, product feedback, pain points of another product or company, trends and conversations with other business owners.

One of my favorite methods for gathering the ‘what you do know’ information is through a Post-it note strategy session that invites everyone around the table to share their ideas – good, bad or unsure of. Once all of the ideas are written down, the best are pulled together into groupings for further discussion and evaluation.

Discovering what you don’t know, or don’t know you don’t know, comes from being open-minded enough to listen and to take away from every conversation a better understanding of how your assets or software might extend to a new market or another client requirement.

Decisions, decisions

Understanding the market – whether and how much people will be willing to pay, and the how best to distribute your product – are key to evolving. The opportunities that exist with today’s technology, the ability to build microcomputers cheaply and easily, the capability to place a computer virtually anywhere, along with the potential of IoT (the Internet of Things) – the network of physical objects “embedded with electronics, software, sensors and network connectivity that enables them to collect and exchange data” – means greater ease of development than ever before.

How easy or complicated new technologies may be, how much assistance you require, and what the cost will be, may determine then and there whether the strategy is a go or no-go. Remember though that the opportunity available through microservices may make the end result more cost-effective.

This analysis of technical aspects – how much help and in what areas – will also help clarify what kind of developer you may need to move forward. Once you have all your ducks in row (understand what you need and have a strategy set), then you are ready to move forward.

How to make the most of each opportunity

Beyond the go or no-go decision, there is also the decision around how to make the most of an opportunity and when to walk away after you’ve begun. With each iteration of a product, the decision is based on confidence.

Taking advantage of an opportunity means taking small steps and, along the way, evaluating whether that step is a good one and then deciding to proceed, or deciding it was a bad move and opting to go back. People have had success and failure investing nothing or investing millions and turning it into something. They have also lost after investing nothing, or investing billions, not knowing when to walk away.

Certain criteria must be set to help with the ‘move forward or turn back’ decision. Understand how much you’re willing to lose. You want to be able to walk away satisfied with what you have done or what you have learned at the end of the day, despite any losses.

Set milestones and determine boundaries. How many strikes are reasonable? If you are within the boundaries, continue. If not, it is time to turn back. Remember, it isn’t only about financial considerations but also how much time and effort you have invested.

The difference in strategy between a classic company and a startup

A classic or established company will tend to stay in its comfort zone when it comes to developing new strategies, or if it is going to develop something new, will allocate a minimal investment of resources, including time.

As a startup, you understand there are risks but you will approach this with an ‘all-in’ philosophy. Of course, it helps if you have support from the 3Fs – family, friends and fools. There must still, at the end of the day, be limits and a time you will identify as the end of an effort.

Evolving your strategy means being willing to pivot, to change direction, even if it means giving up what you have built to this point to stay focused on your long-term goal and future opportunities.

Do you wonder whether it’s time for a go or no-go? Are you considering evolving your strategy and are looking for some ‘what you don’t know’ insight? Share your questions below.