8 Tips for managing a Startup
Managing a startup is not easy. Once your startup has been established and the product/service introduced to the appropriate market, scaling your business can be a daunting (and tricky) task. In a study completed by HBR, 75-years worth of organizational research helped identify four critical activities for successfully scaling a business. The first two activities mentioned were hiring functional experts and adding management structures.
Unlike major companies, as the leader of a startup, you are working with a small team and many unknowns. Your job as the leader is to help align the shifting concepts and ideas that will be your company. Of course, managing a startup for the first time is not something you can completely prepare for as there are all types of challenges and road blocks that can arise. However, here is some advice that could help you along the way.
Build a strong team
According to For Entrepreneurs concerning weak management teams who are managing a startup, “A players hire A players, and B players only get to hire C players (because B players don’t want to work for other B players). So the rest of the company will end up as weak, and poor execution will be rampant.” Therefore, creating an excellent company culture is essential to success and this starts with management. And while a charismatic leader can be important, the whole company does not need to be founded on him or her as there is always a chance that this person could leave. Rather, as Fast Company outlines, startups should build a company culture, training programs and processes that instill the best qualities of its leaders into all of its employees.
Know your area of expertise and delegate what you don’t know
Chris Lang, President of Bynder USA, says, “You have two choices: either spend some money to get people in the beginning, or waste company money by inefficiently using your own time on matters that you have no clue about.” Recognize the areas that you excel in and don’t waste time piddling in areas that others are qualified to do. Trying to learn how to do too many projects and processes can also quickly burn you out and the company can suffer as a result.
Make the investment in strong leadership
Along those same lines, an experienced leader (whether that be in years or from growing in another startup) can help establish a strong company culture as it expands beyond your ability as the main leader to check on everything happening within the company. When dealing with managing a startup, is is known that an experienced leader can also recognize possible snags before they occur. This is critical during the early stages of a company’s development so make the investment in leaders with a proven track record.
Be flexible and adaptive to change
There are going to be internal problems, sometimes with your team or company infrastructure – the key is being able to automate processes where possible to enable changes if needed such as for overlapping job roles or moving employees within the company. An open communication strategy across all levels is also important to have in place for this to succeed.
Build a strong reputation
Building a strong reputation for your company as a whole is only part of the puzzle. As the leader, how are you seen outside of your company? Is your management style being translated externally – either positively or negatively? Without an established reputation, you will have a harder time getting others on board with your company (both investors and consumers) and what you are offering. Generating trust can also assist with attracting talent to your startup. Creating content on your company blog, social media accounts, as well as visiting conferences, awards, etc. are ways you can positively project yourself and your company.
Listen to what others have to say
Listen to what is being said by your employees about different processes, practices, and their opinions on what is working and what is not. Have an open mind and be mindful of your body language (i.e. eye contact, leaning forward, nodding, etc.) when talking to them. Appreciate what they have to say and determine if you will use their feedback. These people are the ones who are “in the trenches” of the business and understand best where the problems are. Also, be aware of what customers are saying as well as what is going on within the industry.
There is nothing wrong with a little bureaucracy
Bureaucracy is something that can be overdone and oftentimes, leaders of startups will go in the opposite direction by ignoring such things as performance-review programs or employee accountability. While freedom is important, so is structure and bureaucracy can help with keeping the company organized and on track. A system of checks and balances can guide progress and assist with communication and project management.
Don’t miss the forest for the trees
In other words, amidst all of the decisions and day to day challenges to be dealt with as a leader and manager, don’t forget the original purpose or mission of your company which should ultimately be to satisfy customers through your innovative solutions. If you feel confused, consider working with incubators, accelerators or companies such as Cytex Ventures.