During start up, a company tends to be very sales driven – operations are fast paced, highly flexible and often chaotic as people experiment with new ideas, stay close to customers, and do whatever it takes to grab opportunities to increase sales.
At this stage the entrepreneur is doing everything: Design the product, call on customers, negotiate the bank loan, sign the cheques, appoint staff and probably even make the coffee! This situation is dangerous, as it will soon take its toll and will limit the growth potential. Twenty 20 years from now the company will still be in its “start up” phase.
Here are a few “red flags” to watch out for:
- Everyone wants to see you and there is not enough of you to go around. It’s becoming physically and emotionally impossible to make all the decisions;
- Your bankers are asking financial questions you can’t answer.
- You feel like you’re reacting and constantly fighting fires, rather than working pro-actively towards goals;
- All your customers want to meet with you, but you don’t have the time to meet with them;
- You see a number of new possibilities for growth, but you are not sure which ones to pursue
If the answer to one or more questions was YES, the business is ready to move to the growth phase. But how?
Take time to assess the strengths of the business’s foundation, as this will support its growth and thereafter consider the following issues if to enable its growth and evolve to the next stage of development:
Culture: Assess your company’s culture and make sure it reflects your values. Values can range from ethical philosophies to desired behaviors to core beliefs. Once you’ve set a clear message and communicated it, assess what part of your company isn’t functioning in accordance with your values. First over-communicate your values, then, be prepared to follow up with actions that demonstrate that you are serious about the culture and values.
Your people: Take the time to review people’s fit with your values. Someone who is unethical or has a bad attitude may be worse than the one who is incapable of doing the job. Negative people are like a virus in the organisation. Replace them before they do long-term damage.
Your team: Assess your top team as a group, and the individuals in the team in terms of their ability to share your leadership requirements. If you don’t have the right team, your company won’t be able to continue moving forward. If you don’t have the right people who can be promoted, you need to start training and mentoring your best people and look to appoint new staff.
Your plan: Develop a plan after you have assessed your company’s strengths, resources and opportunities. You should also consider possible obstacles, identify the resources you have available and formulate a plan to achieve the desired goals. Set concrete goals and communicate the plan, goals and objectives clearly so everyone in your business understands where the business is going.
Your leadership: You need to change your roles, responsibilities and approach to management. Concentrate on the things you do best and assign tasks to your team to take on some of the your roles.. The key word is delegation. Your business needs your best leadership skills. Setting goals, and inspiring and directing everyone in the same direction are key requirements for long –term, sustained growth.
The world of an entrepreneur can become lonely sometimes. An entrepreneur once said the following:” The first years of my company were lonely times for me because I didn’t know anyone else trying to build a company. I really thought I was the only one facing problems like – how to forecast revenue, when to appoint new staff, and how to delegate so I wasn’t the only one who could make a decision. Luckily, I met another entrepreneur who introduced me to some other entrepreneurs who were having the same problems I had”.
Getting involved with a peer group can make the difference between your failure or success.