Many entrepreneurs start their businesses with their own visions and in rather organic ways. The team is kept small and would usually consists of people whom they know as friends, business associates or even family members.
Decision making is usually consultative within the team and at times, the CEO has to make the final decision on behalf of the team. The organization structure of a start-up is very lean and usually consists of 2 to 5 people.
This is the beginning of micro-enterprises. At this stage, I would define them as organizations in experimental stage – a stage where we do not know if the startup will survive or die in 6 months. This is the most volatile phase.
What happens when the business start to grow beyond the initial team?
I have seen, many times, an entrepreneur struggling to maintain its culture, people and practices which was so easily manageable when it was a small setup. This happens as more and more people are added into the organisation, many of whom the entrepreneur does not necessarily come into contact with as the hierarchy becomes steeper and layers of management are added into the process to create efficiency.
Growing a company is an art that is filled with many challenges especially to the entrepreneur/founder. The challenge is to keep the company on course while scaling up quickly. Throughout the years in business, there are many lessons to learn from those who have done it; starting from organic entrepreneurship, moving on to growth and eventually IPO. Here are some of the advice we would like to share:
1. Have a mission and set values early on
Articulate to your employees where the business is headed, and set values everyone should commit to as a community, and in turn hold each other to in order to set the business on that path.
As the company gets bigger, you don’t really know everyone’s names unlike the early days. So how are you going to get everyone on the same path? Good leadership is about articulating your vision and mission to the entire organization and helping everyone to embrace the vision, mission, philosophy and culture.
2. ‘Grow’ great people
Focus on human capital development. At a stage of your business life when execution is key to success of the business, it makes sense to have great talented people and making sure that your people are well equipped to grow with the company; otherwise they will find themselves unable to fit into the new organisation growth.
This is where high turnover will happen unless the company provides training programs to upgrade their skills so that they could handle the challenges at the growth stage.
3. Embrace processes
When your staff swells to 30 people or more, trying to manage everyone and every project can be exhausting — if not downright impossible. So you have to set goals and priorities for yourself as well as your employees. You’ll have to manage them by objectives.
Make sure they know the priorities. Stay organized and don’t let things fall through the cracks. At this stage, it is very important to focus on the management aspect of the business. This is the part that needs to be strengthened since you will require your managers to execute with precision. Hence the beginning of a management system.
4. Hire good people and a professional team
Like it or not, your original entrepreneur team may run out its course when the company moves towards growth. Time for them to play a different role albeit a strategic role instead of the day-to-day operations.
Hire good people and a good and professional team who knows their job well. They are your key success factor. Time for the entrepreneur team to let go and explore other opportunities for the organization.
5. Join a MasterMind Group
A MasterMind Group will give you good support and advice when you encounter hurdles in your growth path. They are people who are in the same growth stage and more likely the entrepreneur would benefit from the collective experiences, network and connectivity that the group profess.
6. Leadership and Management
At this stage of growth, the business transitions from being entrepreneurial to leadership and management. Gone are the days where the flow of the company and decision making is based on entreprenuerial or opportunistic thinking.
Proper management systems and leadership structure must now be in place to drive corporate governance and accountability. KPIs and precision execution are key drivers of the organization. The organization is now driven by revenues and profits; not ideas and passion.
Moving Into a Corporate Culture
Transitioning from entrepreneurial to a corporate organization with a clear corporate and leadership structure, management systems, talent development and emphasis on governance and accountability is a painful process.
Most times, the founder and the initial founding staff will find it difficult to adapt to these changes. Nevertheless, change is necessary in order to position the company towards the growth path.
It is inevitable that the company will experience a high turnover of the founding management staff at this stage of adaptation and in its place, a professional team of managers take charge in the next stage of growth.
At this stage, it is best that the founding CEO re-evaluates his/her capabilities and perhaps consider vacating his/her seat in favor of one professional CEO that could take the company to the next level. This is what happens at Google where Eric Schmidt took the helm of a professional CEO at Google in the place of the founders of Google, Sergey Brin and Larry Page.
Change is not at all bad. It is vital when a company experiences growth. Hence to be prepared for growth after surviving the death valley, these six steps will put a founding CEO in good stead to steer the company ship to the right direction.