The road to poor growth is filled with good intentions

Recently, on a community I’m part of, I saw a request for a logo to be designed. The guy asking has just started to see a little traction with the product he’s building and his partners felt it was time to update their brand.

They set a very small budget (understandably) and asked for people to pitch for the work.

Although totally admirable – visuals do matter to a certain extent – this is the wrong approach to growing something because it focuses on the wrong thing.


Running businesses has taught me that being the underdog is a privileged position.  You can do things that established brands can’t do. With a bigger reputation, there’s a greater chance of losing face.

With barely any reputation, you can do whatever you like and you can do it on a shoestring.

But that doesn’t mean you should do anything you like.


There are two things that work for media and SaaS businesses that want to see genuine growth:

  1. Sell more product
  2. Give the product to more people in order to facilitate your alternative business model

Everything else is vanity.

Here’s some of the things that I have done when I should have been doing 1 and 2:

  • Tried to explore additional business models too early
  • Built unfocused communities to underpin slow sales
  • Gone long distances to demo to unqualified leads
  • Rebranded
  • Created a lot of unfocused content
  • Rebranded again
  • Put in place good governance systems *
  • Tried to build a twitter following
  • Looked for costs to cut to extend runway
  • Trialed alternative software for internal use

All of those actions are well intentioned but the timing is misguided. Focus on the basics of running a business – sales or increased usage are really the only things that will grow your business. 

* This is always a useful thing to do but there’s a season to do it in. That season is once your traction is significant enough to require it.

Photo by David Kristofer on Unsplash