This is an updated version of an article that first appeared in New Hope. I wanted share some of these fundamentals as well as add a few more details and thoughts.
If you are a founder or co-founder of an emerging food and beverage brand and you are not engaged in one or all of the following activities: preparing to effectively raise capital, growth hacking, or developing execution excellence and accountability, you are in trouble. For it is this threefold path that delivers growth in a manner that is both scalable and investable. Let’s investigate each of these individually.
Preparing to effectively raise capital
I will start with this simple truth: it always winds up costing more money than one thinks to grow a brand. Regardless of whether you plan to bootstrap, fund through cash-flow, or have just successfully closed a financing round, you better prepare to raise more funds. Doing so is not just about the money. The process of crafting the optimal investor story helps you become a better company and a stronger brand because a cogent investor presentation requires that you have clarity on the problem that your product solves or the unmet need that it fills. It forces you to quantify the size of the addressable market and to really understand and question your go-to-market economics.
Preparing to raise funds also necessitates that you honestly assess your investment readiness and business scalability and have a conversation as a founding team about vision, risk tolerance, and the needed support beyond the capital. Lastly, getting pitch-ready helps hone your ability to talk about your brand not only to investors, but consumers, customers, and potential employees.
Growth hacking necessitates imperfect action. It doesn’t allow for waiting until you have all the answers and all your ducks in a row. Done right, you are a mad scientist designing omnichannel experiments that validate product/market fit, prove velocity, and hopefully generate some needed revenue. This is the data that informs good strategy and smart decision making.
Growth hacking makes brands more nimble and fast acting. It helps clarify the optimal channel and distribution model. It provides feedback on positioning, packaging, and pricing. Importantly, it feeds the development of the ultimate route-to-market and go-to-market strategy.
Execution and accountability
To grow quickly an organization must create a structure that can absorb and support that growth. Often overlooked, this is a vital activity. You need to plug into the ecosystem, surrounding yourself with the team you need, finding the right brokers, marketing experts, advisors, professionals, and employees who can help accelerate your growth. Then you must establish the needed discipline, determine the right KPIs to measure, install the necessary processes and procedures, and instill a culture of accountability.
Frequently, this is ignored. Too much focus is spent on growing and too little on preparing to absorb that growth. This is how companies fail. They don’t have the infrastructure needed to execute and fail to hold employees and service providers responsible for their performance. They lack the bench strength and capacity to get the critical things done.
None of the above is particularly exciting or sexy, but all three are key to the long-term success of an emerging business. They should not be viewed as distinct stages rather, they are better thought of as part of a continuous cycle. Every brand should be engaged in each of these activities on a regular and ongoing basis.
As a founder you should be asking yourself routinely, how am I preparing to raise capital, what can I be doing to hack growth, and how do I ensure execution excellence and organizational accountability? Doing so will greatly improve your chances of scalable and investable growth.