Sweta Patel’s company, Startup Growth Mode, specializes in helping entrepreneurs grow their businesses not just by focusing on sales but by homing in on broader goals and values. She’s learned those lessons firsthand, as a lead advisor to startups in Plug and Play Ventures, 500 Startups, and Global Silicon Valley Labs, but also at her own company, a MarTech software firm that she closed down in 2015.

Patel started her business, she says, to “develop software that helps marketers create their campaigns, develop marketing planning and budgets, and track their programs’ effectiveness.” Her previous experience helping various companies with marketing taught her that, all too often, companies are compelled to reinvent the wheel with every new hire because systems are not in place.

Determined to solve that problem, Patel started her San Diego-based company in 2010, but soon ran into roadblocks of her own. “I had five employees, and we were doing really well with some big accounts, but I wasn’t hiring the right people to manage the accounts,” she says. “They were so focused on selling the software that they weren’t really focused on delighting the customers.” Existing customers became unhappy and, Patel says, “it was just a complete mess.” She hired coaches to help her get clarity on what exactly had gone wrong, but ultimately shuttered the company and moved to Silicon Valley to become an advisor to portfolio companies in a variety of incubators.

“When Forbes Councils comes into play, I’m able to receive more credibility for my writing and experiences.”

Having worked with more than 300 companies, Patel leveraged her cumulative experience to launch Startup Growth Mode, a subscription service that gives founders tips and advice. “I wanted to show founders how important it is for them to really take the steering wheel of their company and lead, and not just focus on marketing.” Some of the most important lessons she’s learned — and that she now shares with her clients:

Great leadership is essential. “When I first started my company, I didn’t know how to be a good leader,” Patel says. For instance, she’d give an employee vague instructions for a project and then be disappointed when the results were not what she expected. The lesson: communicating goals, objectives, and expectations is key.

Hire for temperament, not skills. Skills can be taught, but teammates who don’t get along are a recipe for disaster. “It’s a partnership and it’s about chemistry,” she says. “I used to hire people based on their knowledge and what they brought to the table. Now, I hire based on personality because if we don’t get along, then it’s not going to work, no matter how brilliant someone is.”

Focus on making customers happy. “I feel that every startup I’ve worked with is trying to find that magic bullet that’s going to help them scale really fast, and they’re not concerned about how happy their customers are. I’m turning the whole funnel backward and really focusing on customers, not sales. Even if you have one customer, you need to make sure they’re satisfied, and if they’re not, do everything you can to fix things with their feedback.” Listening to and attending to the needs of existing customers gives you the valuable information you’ll need to make additional sales, says Patel. “You want to make your product the best that it can be through customer feedback before you focus on scaling.”

Patel uses her membership in Forbes San Francisco Business Council to communicate her ideas to a broader audience. “I used to blog a lot on my own platform, but it wasn’t as big of an authority as Forbes is,” she says. “When Forbes Councils comes into play, I’m able to receive more credibility for my writing and experiences. it gives me a platform of authority to spread my knowledge.” As an entrepreneur with a growing company, time is Patel’s most valuable asset.  The Forbes Agency Council publishing benefit gives her the opportunity to spread valuable advice to the wide and receptive audience of businesses that she has helped as an advisor.


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