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Consulting for startups

When you start up, make sure you start right.

Take the first step

Support for your startup 

When it comes to running a startup business, you need to wear a ton of hats. As a founder, your days can be stressful and filled with a tidal wave of decisions from all facets of your business. Your day might start with a new hire interview, then lead to sales pitch, and might even finish off with balancing the books. That’s where Take the Stairs comes in.

Our startup consulting firm focuses on learning as much as we can about your goals to customize a plan for you – as opposed to a “one size fits all” approach. It’s important to our process to understand how you are looking to position your business in a given market. It’s not just about getting more funding. It’s about building a sustainable set of operating practices that evolve as your business grows and finding the right customers who love the unique spin you put on your products and/or services.

In short, our approach is to be a partner, not a vendor. We work on strategic ideas together with you so that we succeed together. We build plans of attack together, as well, like deciding which ads to run. The goal isn’t for you to just fill a position on your team or pick off a long list of tasks; the goal is to give you the tools to build upon your strengths and then create a sustainable business that delivers a great customer experience every single day. 

Interested in the first step? Call us today to schedule a discovery meeting where we develop an action plan for how to best approach your current challenges. The discovery meeting and action plan are on us.

Startup consulting services

Branding for startups

Startup businesses are in the unique position of being able to develop the fundamentals of brand positioning and strategic marketing correctly out of the gate. Your brand is one of the most important elements. In order to penetrate or disrupt a market, you need to have a well-outlined plan on how to do so. Your plan must include your unique purpose for existing, often referred to as your why statement. There’s a reason you decided to found your startup, and it was probably based on real customer needs and insights that you gained from your personal experiences: make sure that purpose is a part of your plan.

Marketing for startups

Marketing isn’t just a checkbox for startups, it’s an essential vehicle to hit your target revenue goals, and a vehicle to showcase investors the power behind your engagement. You need a voice with which to speak to your audience to prove your relevance and why your brand is the right choice for them. The most important thing is to be authentic and have a targeted plan of attack about the audiences you are trying to reach.

Operations for startups

Startups can accelerate quickly under the right circumstances, but it’s important to remember that there are lots of areas to juggle to make a startup successful. Many times a successful startup can find its stride with sales, but struggle to keep up with its operating practices to match the demand. It’s important to start with a strong level of planning for all areas of your business, including your customer journey. New customers are gold for a startup and need to be fostered through a highly positive experience in order to increase your word-of-mouth business. It takes a lot of moving parts to make things like this happen.

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The elements of a startup business

Any successful startup business has considered to some level the five areas we address below. There are varying amounts of effort that a business invests in each area, but denying any one of these could put you out of business before you know it. 

Review the following elements of a startup business to determine if you’re investing enough time into each: the idea, business model, team, funding, and timing.

We believe startups should focus on transforming our world into a better place, whether it’s through efficiency, innovation, transparency, care, or providing a new voice. You founded your startup with a clear purpose to: improve on an existing product or service or create a new product or service that makes life easier. The idea behind your business is one of the most important elements of a successful startup business as little can be done without it. The problem that many first-time entrepreneurs run into, is that a great idea just isn’t enough.

Your idea could be transformational but you must understand how to build your idea at scale. Building a business at scale is all about adapting your practices to meet today’s demand for your business while preparing for future demand.

To turn your idea into a business, you need a plan of attack where your product or service can provide a consistent experience to all customers. The best place to start is by defining the current end-to-end process for how a customer currently interacts with your business. If your business is pre-revenue, think about the ideal end-to-end process for your customers.

Just like the show Shark Tank, you need to be trying to poke holes in your business model to be as pragmatic as possible in your decision-making. Are we pricing offerings appropriately? Do we have the right vendors? Are we delivering a fast enough turnaround time? Do customers have an easy way to get help and provide feedback? There are always going to be areas to improve. The goal of startups is to grow – to build something of enduring value. In order to grow, you need to prepare your business to be able to support more and more customers.

Your business is not just a set of moving cogs in a factory. Its very fabric is composed of human beings with various backgrounds, experiences, motivations, and causes that make up their character. In almost every business model, you cannot do it alone. Whether you’re working with vendors, contractors, or full-time employees, your team is going to be the biggest variable to your success and ability to scale.

The best advice we can give is to see yourself as a coach, not just a business executive. A coach understands the importance of motivating their team. From emphasizing their strengths to mitigating their weaknesses, a coach – or in this case, a business leader – can get the most out of their team’s performance and be instrumental in their growth.

In comparison, you might find yourself focusing more on short-term wins instead of long-term gains. This could be seen as an authoritarian-type of management style that doesn’t inspire the team to work harder, especially at the startup level. It may even turn a working relationship into one that’s transactional rather than motivational. 

We believe that the best startups inspire their employees to join them in their cause. When you give your hardworking employees space to share their innovative ideas, they may become more motivated to put in the essential hours of “sweat equity” to help reach key milestones.

A wise person once said “money talks”. Every business needs capital to run its business and many need significant financial assistance to build their business at scale to support a reasonable pricing model. For example, a streaming service generally seeks a mass amount of subscribers paying a relatively small amount of money (under $100) to support their customer service, development, engineering, accounting, HR, research development, marketing efforts, and more. No single customer is going to pay $1 million to stream a large library of movies, but one million people paying $10 dollars is good value for the consumer and makes a ton of sense for the business model. For this reason, streaming services must have a significant investment to fund their growth.

The deal has obvious upside for an investor, despite the financial risk. Imagine a single investor with upfront cash that understands ongoing overhead will be minimal as the platform continues to grow. Netflix – with its 182.8 million global subscribers – sees at least $2.37 billion in revenue hit its bank account every single month at the $12.99/mo rate. Imagine seeing just 1% of that as an investor.

Depending on your startup, you may not need funding in your initial pre-revenue phase. You may have the development skills or the business development relationships to kickoff the pre-seed stage yourself. Unless you’re taking a loan or a royalty deal, remember that your equity in a company will decrease with every round of funding. Pick your investors carefully and understand the value they are bringing to your company before signing on the dotted line.

One of the most important things you need to ask yourself as a startup founder is, “Is the world ready for my business?” Do you think AirBnb would have had the same success in the 1980s? According to Choice Hotels, the average hotel cost was $45.44 per night. Today, cities like Nashville average as much as $233 per night. It’s important to consider that a need for cheaper lodging opens the consumer’s mind to stay in a guest room/house as a possible alternative. Your business may be disruptive but you need to be as pragmatic as possible to determine your businesses’ mass acceptance from consumers. 

So what if people aren’t ready for your idea, should you just give up? 

The answer is no. It’s likely worth reassessing your idea and your expectations of success. Determine first if there is a smaller subset of people who would support your startup. Think about Apple computers: the first model, the Apple 1, sold just 175 units. Apple only sold its computers to computer hobbyists who were fascinated by what they could become in the future and wanted to be a part of the revolution. Apple’s early supporters helped fund the company long enough for the dream of having a personal computer in every home become a reality. 

Today, Apple is valued at $1.3 trillion, according to Investopedia. The point is: don’t give up. Just strongly consider the perception of the market you plan to enter and have a strategy to face it head-on.

The elements for every startup consulting service

Every startup consultation can be boiled down to three areas you can impact: people, process, and product (also known as technologies). These three areas need to be considered in any situation because when you update one of the areas, the other two will also be affected.

Each startup has many ways it can grow to reach its potential; it’s important that each element fits in with your long-term business plan.

Setting up the right team is one of the most important things you can do for your business. A major misconception many founders have when building their startup is that they can hire smart or experienced people and just let them run with it. In reality, your business strategy needs to constantly expand to support each new person you hire. 

It’s the job of a founder to train their team to execute on each project to fulfill your vision, so communicating your expectations is critical. An employee is generally just looking to do right by you and get paid for it. The easier you make their job, the less time they will spend trying to find alternate solutions and the more time focused on working harder for you.

There’s a bit more to it than expectations. It’s best to hire those who make a good fit in your organization. A good fit is intangible, but not impossible to find. If yours is a sales-led business, perhaps you will look for confident, outgoing people that like to engage with others. It’s important to think beyond the tasks and understand what the personality traits of successful employees look like at your company.

How can Take the Stairs help with my people management?

Our Nashville-based startup consulting firm helps startups like yours address what success means in every role within your organization. Whether it’s doing a baseline evaluation of your current staff, developing a playbook of the responsibilities for each role, or facilitating the hiring and onboarding process for your next employee, we’ve got you covered on your road to an exceptional company culture. When you have your hand on the pulse of the values you authentically stand for, you can attract people who believe what you believe.

Many founders can get blinded by their great idea and think that the hard work is done. In reality, it has just begun. A business without processes is chaos. Every single business needs processes to make the lives of the entire team easier. The beauty of a startup business is you have an opportunity to insert scalable workflows before you are too busy with the general operations of the business. 

Your main goal with early process development is to keep things simple; this is particularly important for your prospects and clients. Make sure there is a clear path to purchase by removing as many barriers to entry as possible, and that customers can receive ongoing support to gain further buy-in to your business. Most importantly, make the process iterative: keep improving and ask your clients ways that you can make their lives easier.

Processes for your employees and vendors are also extremely important. At the end of the day, most people just want to know what the expectations are for success. If you can provide efficient workflows for your team and vendors, everyone wins.

How can Take the Stairs help with your processes?

Process planning has to be customized for every company, though the plan of attack is likely going to be the same. Wherever your business needs operations consulting services support, we will first determine the current workflow and then interview all key stakeholders within the process to understand their perception of how it’s working. From here, we take the information we’ve gathered together with the understanding of the overall company objectives, so that we can begin to implement a new process focused on everyone’s success. 

For example, we worked with an attorney advertising firm looking to become more profitable within its digital marketing department. After an evaluation of the company’s current process, we learned that deliverables were not defined for its digital marketing retainers. We presented a solution to attach an hourly rate to all retainers, not only to increase client communication but also to avoid scope creep from “squeaky wheel” clients always asking for more. With approval from the executives, we implemented a monthly process for the department leader to make a custom plan of attack based on the allocated hours from each client. It allowed the department to have more conversations about increasing monthly hours with their clients based on the work they were doing. As a result, the department profits soared upwards.

Just remember that your work is never done. This is a living, breathing process. As you grow, you will continuously want to update your processes to match demand.

Product (technology)

This category is known by multiple names – whether it’s product, technology, or things. Regardless of terminology, this refers to the non-living elements of your business that are an essential part of making your company more efficient. It could be the equipment, the materials, or the software you use to keep track of key elements of your business.

A startup founder often has limited capital and needs to spend it as efficiently as possible. Vendors will always tell you that their product is the best, and they are often prepared with handouts and slide decks that tell you why. The problem is that a few months later you may find out that the product isn’t everything you’d hope it would be. The key is to be constantly evaluating and negotiating with your suppliers to maximize the return from your operating expenses.

How can Take the Stairs help with your vendors?

Take the Stairs is well-versed in vendor selection. We take a pragmatic approach and know that it’s possible that each salesperson is more motivated to fulfill their quota than to provide the best solution for you (especially if it’s with another company). 

We like to keep the process straightforward: after we understand your current processes and needs, we evaluate your current vendors and potential suitors for new offerings. Then, we  set time with representatives from each vendor so we can better understand the scope of the services and how we got to the deliverables we have now. Finally, we look into alternatives options and determine if it will be better for your business to change vendors or stay the course with the current supplier. 

Regardless of the path, it’s important to spend the time to ensure that your business has the right tool sets to get the job done.

Setting up the right team is one of the most important things you can do for your business. A major misconception many founders have when building their startup is that they can hire smart or experienced people and just let them run with it. In reality, your business strategy needs to constantly expand to support each new person you hire. 

It’s the job of a founder to train their team to execute on each project to fulfill your vision, so communicating your expectations is critical. An employee is generally just looking to do right by you and get paid for it. The easier you make their job, the less time they will spend trying to find alternate solutions and the more time focused on working harder for you.

There’s a bit more to it than expectations. It’s best to hire those who make a good fit in your organization. A good fit is intangible, but not impossible to find. If yours is a sales-led business, perhaps you will look for confident, outgoing people that like to engage with others. It’s important to think beyond the tasks and understand what the personality traits of successful employees look like at your company.

How can Take the Stairs help with my people management?

Our Nashville-based startup consulting firm helps startups like yours address what success means in every role within your organization. Whether it’s doing a baseline evaluation of your current staff, developing a playbook of the responsibilities for each role, or facilitating the hiring and onboarding process for your next employee, we’ve got you covered on your road to an exceptional company culture. When you have your hand on the pulse of the values you authentically stand for, you can attract people who believe what you believe.

Many founders can get blinded by their great idea and think that the hard work is done. In reality, it has just begun. A business without processes is chaos. Every single business needs processes to make the lives of the entire team easier. The beauty of a startup business is you have an opportunity to insert scalable workflows before you are too busy with the general operations of the business. 

Your main goal with early process development is to keep things simple; this is particularly important for your prospects and clients. Make sure there is a clear path to purchase by removing as many barriers to entry as possible, and that customers can receive ongoing support to gain further buy-in to your business. Most importantly, make the process iterative: keep improving and ask your clients ways that you can make their lives easier.

Processes for your employees and vendors are also extremely important. At the end of the day, most people just want to know what the expectations are for success. If you can provide efficient workflows for your team and vendors, everyone wins.

How can Take the Stairs help with your processes?

Process planning has to be customized for every company, though the plan of attack is likely going to be the same. Wherever your business needs operations consulting services support, we will first determine the current workflow and then interview all key stakeholders within the process to understand their perception of how it’s working. From here, we take the information we’ve gathered together with the understanding of the overall company objectives, so that we can begin to implement a new process focused on everyone’s success. 

For example, we worked with an attorney advertising firm looking to become more profitable within its digital marketing department. After an evaluation of the company’s current process, we learned that deliverables were not defined for its digital marketing retainers. We presented a solution to attach an hourly rate to all retainers, not only to increase client communication but also to avoid scope creep from “squeaky wheel” clients always asking for more. With approval from the executives, we implemented a monthly process for the department leader to make a custom plan of attack based on the allocated hours from each client. It allowed the department to have more conversations about increasing monthly hours with their clients based on the work they were doing. As a result, the department profits soared upwards.

Just remember that your work is never done. This is a living, breathing process. As you grow, you will continuously want to update your processes to match demand.

Product (technology)

This category is known by multiple names – whether it’s product, technology, or things. Regardless of terminology, this refers to the non-living elements of your business that are an essential part of making your company more efficient. It could be the equipment, the materials, or the software you use to keep track of key elements of your business.

A startup founder often has limited capital and needs to spend it as efficiently as possible. Vendors will always tell you that their product is the best, and they are often prepared with handouts and slide decks that tell you why. The problem is that a few months later you may find out that the product isn’t everything you’d hope it would be. The key is to be constantly evaluating and negotiating with your suppliers to maximize the return from your operating expenses.

How can Take the Stairs help with your vendors?

Take the Stairs is well-versed in vendor selection. We take a pragmatic approach and know that it’s possible that each salesperson is more motivated to fulfill their quota than to provide the best solution for you (especially if it’s with another company). 

We like to keep the process straightforward: after we understand your current processes and needs, we evaluate your current vendors and potential suitors for new offerings. Then, we  set time with representatives from each vendor so we can better understand the scope of the services and how we got to the deliverables we have now. Finally, we look into alternatives options and determine if it will be better for your business to change vendors or stay the course with the current supplier. 

Regardless of the path, it’s important to spend the time to ensure that your business has the right tool sets to get the job done.

Why Take the Stairs for startup consulting?

We teach you how to fish

The last thing we want to do is be a replacement for your business. Our plan is to involve you through the entire process so you can make better-informed decisions. Whether we’re doing marketing consulting or operations consulting for your business, your involvement is crucial. As you progress through your career as a founder, your role will become more strategic and less tactical. The more you understand the fundamentals of each area of your business, the better you can set yourself up for future success. Knowing more about a given area will allow you to work better with your management team by providing sound decisions where you can go to a second or third level with your reasoning.

We work at your pace

When you are considering a startup consulting firm to work with your company, the decision can be overwhelming. For one, it can be difficult for many to ask for help. We can certainly empathize with that. Beyond the trust factor, there can be major anxiety about where to begin with startup consulting services. 

We’re here to tell you that we’re willing to meet you at your level. If you want to be more aggressive, we can add resources to your project to get it done. If you want to take a more deliberate, slow-play approach, we can go one baby step at a time. When it comes to working with us, we just have one flat hourly rate of $100/hour, whether you purchase one hour or 100 hours with our consulting firm. After all, we all have to take it one step at a time.

We work ourselves out of a job

We understand that might sound strange, but we aren’t your typical startup consulting business. The difference is, at Take the Stairs, whatever we create or implement on your behalf, we plan to onboard to your team so they can run with it. We want your startup business to thrive and grow, and in order for it to do so, you must empower your team members to take on important new functions within your company. At the end of the day, we feel that it provides our clients with the best experience, and our firm a chance to work with you on updating another area of your business. We still want to be your long-term partner, we just don’t want to hold aspects of your business hostage.

Have questions about startup consulting services?

We could never cover in one web page all the questions you might have about business consulting services. When it comes to consulting, we understand that your challenges are unique to you, and we’re ready to listen! 

To take the first step, schedule a discovery meeting with our team to receive a free action plan for your business. Whether you work with us or not, we want to help you have the tools you need to get started making the journey towards success. Fill out our form below or call us at (615) 219-9181. Our office is located right in Nashville, TN.

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