Starting Up? Have a Day One Growth Mindset.

By Gautam Lohia and Chris Coghlan

You’ve got a great idea and want to start your own business. With so much competition these days, how do you make sure your company succeeds?

While we didn’t know our exact path when we started our latest venture about 3 years ago, adopting a Day One Growth Mindset helped us and our company build the success we have today.

Stanford professor Dr. Carol Dweck, in her pioneering psychology work, summarizes her findings on people with the growth mindset as:


“Individuals who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others)…They tend to achieve more than those with a more fixed mindset (those who believe their talents are innate gifts).”


Our goal from day one of our new venture was to establish a digital product studio to produce globally-recognized work for international clients. In order to achieve that goal, we embraced the Day One Growth Mindset in three ways:


We acknowledged we don’t know enough:

We admitted we will never know enough as individuals, but through constant learning and collaboration with others, we’ve been able to nurture an infinite collective knowledge that enables our company to flourish.


We vowed to always be ambitious:

Growing and developing wasn’t enough to help our company succeed. We also needed the desire to grow. On the very first day of our new venture, Chris and I set some pretty lofty targets, and those are the targets that keep us moving forward. 


We resolved to be ultra flexible:

In an industry that is endlessly evolving, adaptability and swiftness are key. For our business to consistently deliver successful solutions, we must continually try out new methods, test new technologies, and be responsive, elastic, and resilient.

We believe anyone—from our clients and team members to new business owners and young professionals—can adopt a Day One Growth Mindset using these simple yet effective business strategies:


Hire the right people

Surround yourself with people who have a desire and capacity to learn. People you trust. People who enjoy the challenge of overcoming obstacles, who want to influence an industry. Seek out people who are synergistic thinkers and doers. We started by building a strong leadership team and then scaled up our roster of specialized talent.


Reward positive behavior

Recognize employees who achieve their goals, and also recognize those who put in the effort. Emphasize learning, reflection, and progress just as much as success and achievement. Understand that failure is an essential part of growth and can be a positive learning opportunity for the whole company.


Build a culture of learning

Provide each of your team members with a learning budget to use at their discretion, and encourage them to share their learning with others. At Apply Digital, we also organize company-wide Days of Learning and hold a weekly platform where team members can share their knowledge. 


Use scalable systems

Having a Day One Growth Mindset means investing in scalable systems. While the upfront cost of such systems might be high, the long-term benefits are immense. For example, our back-office is automated, efficient, and will allow us to easily scale for the next 3 years. 


Leverage your networks

Growth, knowledge, and opportunity can come from anywhere. Your network is a goldmine of possibilities. Over the past three decades both Chris and I have built up a wide network of friends and acquaintances. To support our growth mandate, we utilize these important relationships not only to target potential clients, but also to identify potential partners and employees. 


Stay ambitious

Growth flourishes when you step outside your comfort zone. Establish two sets of goals: those you know you can achieve, and those you hope you can achieve. Then forget about the former and passionately pursue the latter with an ambitious attitude that inspires all of your decisions as you move your company forward.


Grow for the right reasons

Growth is an essential part of any company’s success. But it’s not just about doing good business, it’s about doing good for your people. People are a company’s key asset and if you grow with your people as the focus, they’ll stick with you every step of the way.


Know when to say “No”

It can be hard to say “no” when you’re first starting out, but knowing when to say it is instrumental to upholding a growth mindset. For example, we’ve said “no” to things like:

  • Well-paying opportunities that don’t fit our service offerings
  • Well-qualified candidates who don’t share our values
  • Temporary solutions (because they often create more problems in the long term). 

Knowing when to say “no” helps keep our company tracking in the right direction.

Just a seed of an idea in December 2015, our company Apply Digital celebrated its three-year anniversary in March 2019. A successful venture employing 75 people in three businesses, our clients include brands like Disney, Freedom Mobile, and AGI. We credit it all to having a Day One Growth Mindset.

It hasn’t always been easy, however. We’ve often had to step out of our comfort zone and make hard decisions. But we’re prepared to take the risks because this ideology has proven its benefits for us time and again. 

If you’re looking for ways to grow and energize your company, consider adopting a Day One Growth Mindset. It has inspired our business decisions well beyond our company’s initial years and will always be an integral part of our future planning strategies as we continue to grow.

About the authors:

Gautam Lohia and Chris Coghlan are founders of Apply Digital, Apply Ventures and GoodScout Digital. Gautam oversees client management and operations at Apply and Chris leads global business development.

The authors would like to thank Vaibhav Lohia and Judy Renouf for their contributions to the article.