It’s No Guessing Game: Why You Need to Scale Predictably to Grow Your Business

How do early-stage companies position themselves for growth? Before scaling, founders think about the following five things according to Donna Levin, social entrepreneur and Co-Founder of Care.com. Care.com is the world’s leading online site for helping families find and manage family care with over 20 million members across 16 countries. During Levin’s time at Care.com, she built and lead high performing teams, and scaled the company through five rounds of funding to IPO. Levin is currently an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship and a lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Levin recently shared her insight into what founders need to do before bringing their companies to scale

1. Figure out what scaling means for your business.

If you ask a few different people to define what it means to bring a business to scale, you may get a few different answers. Levin, has a pretty simple answer. “Scale is really just accelerating growth with confidence,” says Levin. “You’re growing, [you have] operations, you’re starting to think about what you automate, you definitely want to have a plan that supports revenue, [and] you try to stay ahead.”

For Levin, founders need to figure out what scaling actually means for them personally, and for their business. “It’s different for every industry, so you really want to understand what are the expectations of that industry.”

Levin also reminds founders, “when we talk about scale, it’s about predictable scale. You can’t say you’re going to scale on a strategy that’s based on PR; [it’s] too unpredictable [because] you don’t really control it. People want you to have predictable measures and metrics when you scale.

I want to know if I give you $100, you’re going to spend that $100 in an efficient manner, and…you can tell me, ‘Here’s how I’m going to spend the $100, I’m probably going to end up getting $50 back, but that’s a good thing because these [customers] will have a high lifetime value.’ “

2. Determine how you’ll find your next set of customers.

As you scale your business, you need to approach customer acquisition differently than when you first launched. “When you start off, your early adopters, those people who are your true believers early on, they could have heard about you from your friends or word-of-mouth,” explains Levin. “As you start to scale and grow your business, either you need to figure out what’s that next market where people really care [as] much about what you’re doing, or you’re going to have to spend more money to tell them about the service that you provide.”

Levin further illustrates this point with the concept of painkillers vs. vitamins. According to Levin, some businesses are painkillers: when people need painkillers, they go out and find something to soothe their pain.

Vitamins, on the other hand, are things people may not always take when they should, even though they know vitamins are good for them. “If you have a painkiller business, people are actively looking for [your] solution. If you have a vitamin business, you have to [sell] people what it is that you do.”

3. Know your team and your co-founders.

“Is your team really ready to scale with you? Do you have the right people that you need on your team? What are your strengths and weaknesses, and who do you need to complement those strengths and weaknesses?”

According to Levin, these are all questions founders should ask themselves before they get ready to scale. “Conduct regular check-ins with your co-founders,” says Levin. “Culture eats strategy for breakfast. You can have the best-laid plans, but if your team members are not motivated and happy, they will destroy your business, and unfortunately, it will be your fault.”

Founders should also check in with themselves before scaling their business. “One of the things that you need to realize when it is your venture: you sorta are the center of the universe, and you really need to get yourself together, because everything else going on with you tends to impact what’s going on with your business.”

Levin stresses the need for founders to “get their house in order” before scaling, particularly in terms of their personal finances. “It’s okay to build raises for yourself and your team and a livable wage into your model. If you’re starving, you can’t grow your business.”

4. Decide if you’ll “Nail It” or “Scale It.”

“Some of us start a venture because we want to do this for the rest of our life. Some of us start a venture because we are so fed up about something and we want to go fix it, and then we want to move on to the next problem. And some of us start a venture because we think, ‘I can do this for a few years, and I think I’m going to sell to a big company and make a ton of money,’ ” says Levin. “Whatever your reasons, be real with yourself about what they are.”

Different motivations often require different types of leaders, and Levin believes it’s important for founders to know where they stand on the spectrum. “Nail It leaders tend to be people who love creating things, and they can deal with the chaos of wearing lots of different hats and testing lots of different things. 

Scale It leaders get really good at optimization. They are into the numbers, and they know the difference of what a minor movement will do. Figure out which leader you are (and it’s possible to be both), but just know the role you’re playing.”

5. Keep operations lean.

As you scale operations, Levin’s advice is to keep things as simple and as lean as possible to provide the greatest opportunity for scalability. “When you’re trying to figure a bunch of things out, some of the projects can be your pet projects: things that you love or your investors might love, but nobody actually uses.” Levin says there’s no place for money pits as you scale your company. “Use the resources someplace else.”

This article originally appeared on the Project Entrepreneur website and has been condensed for clarity.

If You Ate a Burger King Croissan’wich in the Past 2 Years, You May Have a Refund Coming

Are you a fan of Burger King’s breakfast Croissan’wich? If you are, and if you purchased one between October 2015 and May 2017, the chain may owe you some money. That’s because of a class-action lawsuit the chain recently settled over its “buy one, get one free” coupons.

You know how BOGO is supposed to work. You bring the coupon to a store, buy an item at its usual price, and then get another one of that item without paying for it. Burger King allegedly tried to alter the system by specially raising prices for BOGO customers, until one of them, Koleta Anderson from Maryland, decided to sue.

Anderson says she bought two Croissan’wiches on the BOGO deal and was charged $3.19 before taxes. When she later bought just one sandwich with no coupon, she was charged $2.16. That didn’t seem right, so she repeated the experiment at several other Burger King stores, and got similar results. 

So did her attorneys, and so did reporters from the Miami Herald when they bought Croissan’wiches just four minutes apart, once with a coupon and once without. Importantly, the overpriced Croissan’wich was a special order (no cheese).

In its settlement agreement, Burger King explains it this way: 

“Pursuant to its investigation, BKC determined that Plaintiff’s allegations were, in certain respects, correct, in that some consumers in multiple states who special-ordered two Croissan’wiches without egg, cheese, and/or a meat and used a BOGO coupon at certain Burger King® restaurant locations that used a particular electronic Point of Sale (“POS”) system may have been inadvertently charged the full price for a single meat, egg, and cheese Croissan’wich, as opposed to the full price for a single Croissan’wich with only the ingredients the consumer ordered.”

The Burger King agreement goes on to say that according to its calculations, only about 10 percent of customers were affected, with the overcharges “typically ranging from a few cents up to $1.00.”

The fast food chain denies any wrongdoing, asserting that the error was inadvertently caused by its point-of-sale system. Nevertheless, it has agreed to issue payments as follows: Anyone who bought modified sandwiches using a BOGO coupon, was charged more than they should have been, and still has the receipt will get a $5 refund for every such purchase. Anyone who doesn’t have a receipt but attests that they made such a purchase and were overcharged will receive one $2 gift card. In addition, assuming the settlement is approved, Anderson will get a “service award” of $500, and Burger King will also pay her legal fees of $185,000.

If you’d like to make a claim, you must fill out this form and mail it to Burger King by January 19. 

They Stopped Making It 42 Years Ago, but the Citroën DS Is Still One of the Most Innovative Cars Ever

Every now and then, a company makes a product that’s so incredibly wonderful it can’t be improved on or bested. That’s what happened in 1955, when the French car maker Citroën first introduced its iconic model DS. It continued making it for 20 years, then stopped and went on to something else. But there are still a few around, and they are still the most beautiful and most intriguing cars ever made.

I’ve never been one to love cars, especially not gas cars. Most of the time, I can’t tell one from another. But the first time I saw a Citroën DS, as a 22-year-old in Paris, I saw one for the first time and had to turn and watch it rolling down the street. “What is that?” I asked. Even though I didn’t know, I knew I wanted one.

This year, many decades later, and more than 60 years after it was made, the editors at Wired have declared that the DS “still feels ahead of its time, and they’ve created a video to explain why. These folks know something about technology and products, and they’ve picked out some of the features that made the DS absolutely unique. As senior writer Jack Stewart puts it, “Some of the technology that it has on board is still more cutting-edge than we see in cars today.” 

1. Headlights that swivel with the wheels.

Citroën wasn’t the first auto maker to offer this feature (the short-lived US auto maker Tucker had them too, for instance). But Citroën was the first car maker to offer them in a widespread way in the European market. It would have offered them in the U.S. market as well, but at the time the federal government actually forced Citroën to remove the swiveling headlights from DS cars to be sold here.

Now called “adaptive” headlights, they’re a sought-after feature in 21st-century U.S. cars.

2. Hydropneumatic suspension.

This is a Citroën invention, later licensed by Rolls Royce. This system, revolutionary even by today’s standards, balances all four wheels at the same level no matter what’s going on under the tires, and also no matter what kind of load the car is carrying.

This makes for an incredibly smooth and comfortable ride. It’s also super-handy if you get a flat because rather than fiddle with a jack you can just use the hydropneumatic system to lift up the car, prop it up with a short pole, and then lower it again, leaving the wheel in question suspended so you can switch in the spare. Which, incidentally, is stored under the hood.

At the beginning of the Wired video, you can watch the cool effect of the hydropneumatic system has when you switch off the engine–the car gives off a sigh and gently settles over its wheels.

3. Extreme comfort. 

Though it’s much smaller and more compact than a typical American-made “land yacht,” the DS was famous for being incredibly comfortable. Partly this was due to the innovative suspension, partly to the cushy seats inside which make the car something like a sofa on wheels, according to one reviewer. An elderly friend of the family was too frail and sore to ride in most cars, but could tolerate trips in a DS because it was so much more comfortable to ride in.

4. A really clever name.

The letters “DS” don’t sound like much in English, but in French they’re pronounced exactly the same as the word “déesse,” meaning “goddess.” The folks at Citroën were fully aware of just how special their new line of cars was.

Sadly, I never did get one–owning a vintage vehicle was just never practical for me. These days, I’m the happy owner of an electric car, and I’m not sure I’ll ever buy another gas one. But I did bring a finely-made Matchbox-sized model home with me from that trip to Paris. It’s still sitting on my shelf today.

Here’s Wired‘s tribute to the DS:

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t76fnNGiFhQ?rel=0]

Want a Fulfilling Relationship? Science Says the Happiest Couples Have These 13 Characteristics

Romantic relationships are challenging, rewarding, confusing, and exhilarating–sometimes all at the same time.

Should you take things slowly at the beginning or dive right in? Can things stay hot in the bedroom even after years of being together? What happens when one of you wants to use a holiday bonus to invest in Bitcoin and the other wants to go on a vacation?

The answers aren’t always clear, but when it comes to marital satisfaction, science has some interesting things to offer.

According to research, the happiest couples are those who:

1. Don’t fight over text

What seems obvious is now backed up by science: a study out of Brigham Young University shows that couples who argue over text; apologize over text; and/or attempt to make decisions over text, are less happy in their relationships.

When it comes to the big stuff, don’t let an emoji take the place of your actual face.

2. Don’t have kids

Children are one of the most fulfilling parts of life. Unfortunately, they’re hell on relationships. Numerous studies, including a 2014 survey of 5,000 people in long-term relationships, show that childless couples (married or unmarried) are happiest.

This isn’t to say you can’t be happy if you have kids–it’s just to understand that it’s normal to not feel happy sometimes. Many couples put pressure on themselves to feel perfectly fulfilled once they have what they’ve always wanted (a long-term partnership with children), but the reality of kids is that they’re very stressful on relationships.

3. Have friends who stay married

If you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with, you’re also just as married as them.

According to research out of Brown University, you’re 75 percent more likely to get divorced if a friend or close relative has already done the deed. When it’s someone one more degree of separation out (the friend of a friend), you’re 33 percent more likely to get divorced.

Researchers had this to say on the ramifications of the results: “We suggest that attending to the health of one’s friends’ marriages might serve to support and enhance the durability of one’s own relationship.”

4. Fight at the beginning, then not a lot

Psychologists like Dr. Herb Goldberg suggest that our model for relationship is backwards–we tend to expect things to go smoothly at the beginning, and for problems (and conflicts) to arise later. In fact, Dr. Goldberg argues that couples should have “rough and ragged” beginnings where they work things out, and then look forward to a long and happy incline in the state of the relationship.

Research agrees: a Florida State study found that couples who are able to be openly angry in the beginning are happier long-term. According to lead researcher James McNulty, the “short-term discomfort of an angry but honest conversation” is healthy for the relationship over the long haul.

5. Are comprised of one first-born child and one last-born child

There’s an entire body of research on how your birth order impacts your life, including your relationships as well as professional success. One of the happiest pairings for couples? Someone who was the youngest child with someone who was the oldest.

Researchers hypothesize this may be because the relationship has one person who enjoys being taken care of, and one who’s used to taking care of others.

6. Know who does what when it comes to housework

According to a UCLA study, couples who agree to share chores at home are more likely to be happier in their relationships. An important caveat: couples who have clearly defined responsibilities are far more likely to be satisfied.

In other words, when you know what to do and what’s expected with you, you tend to be happier both yourself and with your spouse. This might be a good thing to sit down and discuss in the new year, especially if you’re newly cohabitating.

7. Are gay–or straight and feminist

In a recent study of 5,000 people, researchers found that gay couples are “happier and more positive” about their relationships than their heterosexual counterparts. Straight couples made less time for each other, and were less likely to share common interests and communicate well.

If you’re going to be hetero, though, you’re better off being feminist. Research out of Rutgers shows that both men and women with feminist partners are more satisfied in their (hetero) relationships. The name of the study? Feminism And Romance Go Hand In Hand.

8. If hetero, are comprised of a lovely lady and a not-as-lovely man

Levels of attractiveness within couples has long been the subject of debate (not to mention song lyrics). According to a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, when husbands view their wives as the more attractive of the pair, not only are they more satisfied in the relationship, but the wives are, too. The opposite was not true–when husbands thought they were better-looking, they weren’t as happy.

9. Are best friends

The National Bureau of Economic Research did a study demonstrating that marriage, on the whole, leads to increased levels of happiness (they controlled for premarital happiness).

Perhaps more telling was the finding that people who consider their spouse to be their best friend are almost twice as satisfied in their marriages as other people.

“What immediately intrigued me about the results was to rethink marriage as a whole,” researcher John Helliwell said. “Maybe what is really important is friendship, and to never forget that in the push and pull of daily life.”

10. And have a lot of friends in common

In 2013, Facebook released a report that analyzed 1.3M of its users, looking at, among other things, relationships. The conclusion? Couples with overlapping social networks tended to be less likely to break up–especially when that closeness included “social dispersion,” or the introduction of one person’s sphere to the other, and vice versa.

In other words, the best-case scenario is when each person has their own circle, but the two also overlap.

11. Spend money in similar ways

The two biggest things couples fight about are sex and money. When it comes to the latter, it’s well-known to psychologists as well as social scientists that for some reason, people tend to attract their spending opposite. Big spenders tend to attract thrifty people, and vice versa.

A University of Michigan study corroborated this. Researchers found that both married and unmarried people tend to select their “money opposite”–and that this causes strife in the relationship. The happiest couples tend to spend money in a similar way, whether that is saving or indulging.

12. Have sex at least once a week

Probably the best statistic of the bunch comes from a 2004 study, which showed that upping your sexual activity from once a month to once a week can cause happiness levels to jump by as much if you made an extra $50,000 a year.

The study, entitled “Money, Sex, and Happiness: An Empirical Study” sampled 16,000 adult Americans. One of its main conclusions: “[S]exual activity enters strongly positively in happiness equations.”

13. Celebrate each other’s achievements

Anyone who has been in a relationship can attest to this one, but now there’s research to confirm it: A study in The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology showed that when couples celebrate their partner’s accomplishments as if they were their own, they’re more satisfied in the relationship. 

“In good times and bad” includes the good times–something it can be easy to forget. And it’s true; there’s nothing quite so satisfying as having your partner be loudly and enthusiastically in your corner when you do well.

Joy, after all, multiplies with love.

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“Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads, which sew people together through the years.” – Simone Signoret