Start-up businesses aim to grow from entrepreneurial chaos to scalable success, but how do they do this?
THE PHASES OF GROWTH
Most businesses that start small evolve according to need, personality, passion and interests rather than any obvious planned structure. As they become larger it becomes necessary to have some structure around roles, responsibilities and specialisms to avoid error, omission, duplication and confusion.
The early start-up may be directed by the entrepreneur, then as people join it may become collaborative or co-operative, and then possibly more delegated, trusting good people to manage the tasks and allowing the boss(es) to focus on customers and strategy.
These phases require a change in people, process, management and leaderships skills and styles as the business grows. What works well with three people across the kitchen table may not be so workable with 10 people in an office or 20 across 2 locations.
With this in mind it may seem obvious that the starting point should be the development of your people since it is them that promote the product and communicate with the customer. Without the right people and appropriate style of direction, coaching or delegation the business may not achieve its potential.
An organizational development approach however can be time-consuming. It is much harder and takes longer to learn to drive a car than it does to be a passenger and receive a lift. Often the role of a consultant becomes that of a taxi (getting the organization from A to B) rather than as a driving instructor (giving the skills, insight and experience for the organization from A to wherever it wants)
There is some dispute about exactly how many leadership styles there are out there, but psychologist Daniel Goleman presents a good case for his six. They are:
Commanding – Someone who demands immediate compliance.
Visionary – Someone who mobilizes people towards their vision.
Affiliative – Someone who creates harmony and builds emotional bonds.
Democratic – Someone who forges consensus through collective and fair participation.
Pace-setting – Someone who sets their own high standards for performance, and expects their team to match them.
Coaching – Someone who develops people for the future through nurturing and training.
In this latter scenario there is a danger of not having a practical outcome in mind, building skills but without an objective output and outcomes. So how do we avoid this?
LESSON NO1 THE NUMBERS SET THE TOPIC FOR A STORY
Look at the Key Performance Indicators of the business: Whether it is sales, income, profitability or an analysis of time and productivity. Use objective facts to direct effort, and attention.
LESSON NO2 THE PEOPLE TELL THE STORY
Use the Key Performance Indicators as the context for discussion, or indeed perhaps make the discussion about identifying, agreement and measuring the most appropriate Key Performance Indicators. This will help understanding, engagement and responsibility. Later when it comes to monitoring and management Key Performance Indicators the prior discussion will help ownership and accountability, and ultimately commitment and delivery.
LESSON NO3 THE PAST IS A TRUER TEST OF THE FUTURE
Avoid forecasts. I often hear people make a projection on what might happen. Or a future commitment about what people will achieve. The problem is that this prediction is a future-bet with no history or track-record. Look instead to past performance, data from the management information systems, the account systems as well as external market information.
LESSON NO4 BEFORE CLIMBING A LADDER HAVE SOLID FOUNDATIONS
As an extension of the previous point, start small and grow. Don’t seek to pursue too many objectives at once. You risk scattering resources (including time, effort and money) confusion of staff and customers ultimately failure to succeed at one thing because you’ve been pursing many.
If you are interested in any of the above and would like to contribute to the discussion by posting a comment, or meet with me to chat about your experiences and the issues and opportunities in your organization I would be delighted to meet and buy the coffee and croissants for an interesting conversation.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tim Rogers is an AMPG Qualified Change Practitioner, a PRINCE2 Project Manager, with an MBA in Management Consultancy. Past projects have included the incorporation of Jersey Post Office, Operations Change and Sales Support for RBSI and NatWest and the integration and incorporation of Jersey Harbours and Airport. He is a tutor/lecturer for the Chartered Management Institute, a past curator for TEDx, Team manager for Jersey’s Triathlon Island Games Team and Performance Director for Jersey Rowing Club.