Creating a business is an incredible journey made up of both success and failures, and entrepreneurs who are fortunate enough to watch their venture grow from a simple idea to an established company will understand that it involves constant change and management – From experience, here’s some advice in managing these changes.
Expanding and thriving
The initial months of a new venture are dedicated to operation and survival. This is the time when a startup establishes its identity, forms its vision and solidifies its offering. More than 90% of startups fail at this stage mainly as the result of the business plan being executed poorly. Constantly referring back to your business model is crucial and should remain at the core of your company’s future plans and vision.
As the co-founder of a startup, my primary focus at these early stages was to ensure our vision was correctly implemented into all aspects of the business and most importantly, that our customers saw the value. Ultimately there is no future without customers. For us, it was all about ensuring that we were getting market traction and above all, market satisfaction. Most time is spent raising funds, attracting early customers and building a core team you can rely on in the future. You might often spend time worrying about your ‘runway’- how long your company has to live with the cash you have.
It’s a strange feeling to realise that this survival phase is over – your company is presenting a strong and rapid evolution, both in customer acquisition and revenues, and you start seeing new challenges related to growth and even international expansion.
Sharing your vision
As your business grows, so too will your team. If you have teams in various locations worldwide, time difference challenges the maintenance of a consistent communication flow. People are autonomous and will make their own decisions. While this is a great thing you should encourage as a company leader, the downside is that you have less time to ensure the vision of the company is maintained across the board. If your company loses its vision, ultimately it will disaggregate, shrink and die. Wasn’t that the path Apple was on in the 90’s before they called back Steve Jobs?
As a CEO and Founder, you can mitigate this by hiring people that you can trust with the company’s vision. Encourage them and empower them, so they feel that this business is theirs as much as yours. At times they will challenge you on your own vision, which means they want more for your business and are willing to add innovative ideas to your initial vision – what more could you wish for?
Of course, this has to be backed up by strong communication. Every week for instance, I have a 1-hour call with each Vice-President of our geographies. I never cancel, no matter what. And every week, we distribute to all team members across the globe a weekly update and what’s next on the agenda. It’s all about ensuring that your company lives the one and same story.
Restructuring your flow of processes
Previous corporate experiences have shown me the worst traits processes can bring in a business, especially slowness and the dilution of responsibility and personal accountability.
Yet some level of process is needed in a growing company, to maintain the quality level across all operations and save time by ensuring that we can repeat successful “recipes”. As a growing startup, create and implement processes only as needs arise, review them regularly to respond to systems that are no longer a positive driving force and try not to mimic large organisations. Being agile and nimble is an incredible asset of smaller operations that you want to maintain as much as possible.
Being backed by your Board
Surround yourself with people to help you steer the ship. Building a board is an important step, whether of advisors or directors. It is a space where you as the CEO can present the progress and challenges of the company and get feedback and advice. Work with your Chairman as one of your closest team members. Your Chairman should collaborate in generating ideas for the business and challenges your views frequently, whilst helping you grow as a business leader and supporting you at all times in running your company. I can testify that this key relationship is one of the factors behind my own company’s positive trajectory.
Staying grounded on your rapid journey
The last part of managing growth is all about you, as the founder, CEO, leader or manager. You will have to grow with your business. And as your business, you will have to change and evolve.
My job today is fundamentally different to what it was 20 months ago after our very first fund raising when we were establishing our first ever office. Whilst evolving it is important to stay true to your vision and yourself. Listen to your teams and your clients – they will help you do so.
To manage your growth most successfully, surround yourself with great supporters at every level of your company. As a leader, you will need it much more than you could ever think of.