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How to stay nimble while growing your business

Elliot Begoun
Do those things and you’ll have the level of Tardigrade nimbleness needed to run the rapids of the natural products industry.

The seventh of the Tardigrade traits is nimbleness. For a brand and business to survive in these uncertain times, it must quickly adjust, adapt and move faster than its competitors. But how? This article will explore what is required to be nimble and agile while remaining capital efficient and effective. 

Go slow to grow fast

As a Tardigrade, you have a growth hypothesis constructed from a set of assumptions. Some of those assumptions will prove to be true others won’t. If you follow what I wrote about in prior articles, you are actively running growth hack experiments to test your assumptions. If, while doing so, you are stomping down on the accelerator, you’ll find your ability to adjust and adapt significantly reduced. What if you learn your price point is wrong or find that you’re not driving trial efficiently? If you’ve expanded your distribution broadly or invested heavily in your e-comm spend, it might be difficult to walk it back. Time is needed to absorb the lessons the market is sure to share. To ensure that you remain agile, you need to go slow to grow fast. Don’t expand faster than the speed at which you are proving product/market fit. Be patient. Test, adjust, then grow. Test some more, revise again, grow. Rinse and repeat, slowly expanding your distribution and reach.

Imperfect action

Repeat after me—“progress over perfection.” Mistakes hurt and can be scary. But, mistakes happen. Failure is our greatest teacher. As an emerging brand and business, it’s all about learning. The market and the greater ecosystem cannot offer you its feedback if you don’t take action. The faster you act, the sooner you learn. Absorbing those lessons and adapting are the epitome of nimbleness. Yet, we often move too cautiously. We’re afraid, concerned we don’t have all of our ducks in a row. Welcome the crazy rooster instead and go out and get shit done. I promise, no matter how long you work on your deck, perfecting every bullet and data point, you will still miss something. Better to get that deck out into the world today and learn what you missed rather than agonize over it for two weeks and only then know what you might have two weeks prior. This is a messy business with minimal certainty. If you don’t jump in, you might just miss out. So embrace imperfect action. I think you will find it liberating. 

Fractions before whole numbers 

Stay small for as long as you can. I know you want to have a bigger team. To take some of that stuff off your plate would feel great. You can do that without going all in. The first thing to evaluate is yourself. Think of Pareto’s Law: 20% of what you do drives 80% of the benefit. What is your 20%? Start there and then think about what you need to remove from your plate to spend more time on your 20. Next, start planning to outsource some or all of what falls outside of that 20. 

In today’s climate of distributed work and the gig economy, I’ve become a big fan of taking a fractional approach to intelligent hiring. Rather than burden the business with an FTE, investigate those who offer that function in a fractional form. Examples are sales leads, marketing teams, operations and finance. You’ll likely wind up with more experience and depth on your bench. More importantly, you can easily adjust a fractional team and its related expenses as you learn and take imperfect action.

Go slow to grow fast, embrace imperfect action, understand your 20% and factionalize the rest. Do those things and you’ll have the level of Tardigrade nimbleness needed to run the rapids of the natural products industry. Instill this trait into your business and you’ll be thankful for it time and time again. Remember, it is all about being nimble, capital-efficient and resilient.

Elliot Begoun is the Principal of The Intertwine Group, a practice focused on helping emerging food and beverage brands grow.

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