Slow growth best for the startup lane

As owners, executives and employees, it’s our job to keep the wheels spinning round in a business world full of tough starts and raw horsepower in the entrepreneurs among us.

Keep going.

Do-or-die business environments test our ability to focus on both immediate needs and the long-term vision that got us here. Brought us to the beginning. Gave us a start. Remember the first time you took ownership of your career? I do. And it was awesome.

The onset of entrepreneurialism typically occurs months if not years before we spot the green flag. Our thoughts wander past the grandstands, beyond the pits and onto fast tracks we couldn't have imagined five car lengths ago. It’s exhilarating. And it never ends.

Breaking things in right requires a certain amount of patience. You don’t want to push a new engine too hard. You certainly can't sit still. And the last thing you need is to stall on the interstate.

Fifty miles an hour, however, is not typically a comfortable rate of speed for founders. Like fans of Ricky Bobby, portrayed by comedian Will Ferrell in “Talladega Nights,” some owners can appreciate that his entire life and “professional” racing career was built on one defining principle: “If you’re not first, you’re last.”

That, of course, is crap. But watching the film did teach us how driving with a live cougar in the car jumpstarts confidence and helps overcome any fear of going fast. And hilarity. Heck, if it was a viable option for securing capital, at least half the founders I know would likely go all in on the first attempt. Well, what about the other half?

Eaten alive.

You see your neighbor’s pickup out there. Yep. The one with 300,000 miles. Sure, it’s a little beat up. Been in the thick of it of a few times. A few pileups. Even showing some rust. But that badboy was built with a made-to-last power core. And it’s a safe bet your buddy changed the oil on time. Gave it proper fuel. Handled routine maintenance. No liens. And it’s paid for itself dozens, hundreds of times.

Yet you’ve just unwrapped that new model pickup and now it’s time to float down the highway, right? When we’re young, it’s easy to push things through - to punch it - without slowing long enough to consider how the headline will read when we wrap that brand-spanking new idea around a telephone pole.

In there, as they say, lies the rub. Bolt, and you could burn out. Go to slow, and it seems as if once-in-a-lifetime opportunities pass you on the high side about by every five minutes. Sit idle for too long and you risk getting stuck in a rut. Life and business don’t always have a pace car. And qualified pit crews aren’t easy to come by.

So just how much of a hurry are you in to get there?

If you don’t know why your company is in the fast lane, maybe it’s time to ease up on the gas. Downshift. Back off the accelerator a bit. Tap the breaks. Pick a speed, perhaps somewhere between “The Amazing Race” and “Ice Road Truckers.” Get there, hit cruise, and quit wasting gas worrying about the pacesetters. You see that up ahead? It’s well-oiled company on the horizon.

So here we are. Silicon Prairie. Scooping the Central Iowa startup loop with a truck full of guys and gals working hard and breaking the rules. They build stuff. High-octane stuff. Prototypes. Professional-grade ideas. You my friends have extraordinary potential. And I’m curious how this relates to your pole position.

What are some benefits associated with developing a slow growth business model for startup success? Will you share one piece of timely advice to accelerate the success of others, and geared toward keeping startups on the right track?

By the way, hanging out Saturday nights in the garage might not sound like much fun. But tinkering around in there is what paved the way to your future. Wherever you stand in rankings, keep going and don’t ever quit.

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