The skill set you need to grow a successful startup is very different to the one you need to manage a large corporation.
Think about it.
No computer whiz ever dared to believe that his bedroom business would blow up like Facebook at the very beginning.
When you’re starting out, you focus on the foundations: building a product or service that’s technically functional, discovering who your customers are, and hustling to get your bright idea to market.
You jump on the fundraising merry-go-round in the hope that someone with deep pockets sees a spark of potential.
And when they do, it feels like you hit the big-time.
Three years later, you might find yourself outgrowing your 20-man office in a hip co working hub.
If things go well, you’ll be achieving unicorn status, hiring your 400th employee, and hitting double figures with your portfolio of office locations.
How can you scale your competencies alongside your business?
Become an adaptable leader.
Embrace Cultural Change
Your company began with yourself, perhaps a co-founder, and a handful of ride-or-die friends.
At the start, loyalty, shared passion and the ability to provide an unshakable support system are the things you demand from your core team.
It’s no wonder that Silicon Valley has a reputation for frat boy culture. A tactic that once saved founders sky scraping recruitment costs becomes pure nepotism when the hundredth senior hire is yet another classmate.
Company culture is a key factor, influencing offer holders’ decisions to take or decline a job.
You’re sure to be proud of the qualities embodied by your earliest hires: dedication, curiosity, team spirit.
But are you a little bit insular?
Like letting your 5-year old choose what to wear for a party, it’s hard to loosen the reins. It’s better to come to terms with this sooner rather than later: big business isn’t school, and it’s time to grow up.
Equating company culture with the intimate, fist-bumping energy of college dorm bromance is a fatal error.
It will alienate the management team from future hires, lower the glass ceiling, and strip your company of the benefits that come with a diverse and inclusive workplace where no-one is afraid to speak their minds.
You barely have time to sleep, let alone invest in your continuing professional development.
Training is for juniors, right? The reality is that the young founders touted as disruptive entrepreneurial gunslingers aren’t as they seem.
A 21-year-old CEO has shunned graduate training scheme offers and probably skipped hours of class to build his hustle into a viable business.
Industry needs trailblazing mavericks, but that’s not an excuse to become blind to your own shortfalls.
Seek out older, wiser mentors. Dedicate time to discovering how to build a long-term strategy and manage a growing company.
Dip into blogs and podcasts to keep abreast of marketing, finance, and HR trends.
And don’t discount the expertise you have in-house: take time to connect with your employees, find out who they really are and be open to their feedback.
You might be able to learn as much from your intern as from the billion-dollar tycoon you admire.
The Importance of Empathy
Startups are personality cults. A charismatic leader is the most valuable asset an early-stage enterprise can have. They charm clients and investors. They energize and inspire employees.
But somewhere along the line, they grow frustrated by the fact that their staff don’t share the same work ethic, prefer to socialize in a different way, or appear frustrated with the way the company is managed.
Every founder must come to terms with the fact that employees have far less riding on the success of your business: they have less to lose if it fails, and less to gain if you win big.
So how can you motivate a diverse range of characters to give you their all?
People don’t want to be pigeonholed. They want to feel attached to the company’s vision and goals.
They want senior managers to listen to their ideas and to be supported in personal and professional growth.
As your company grows, understand that different people require different management to thrive in their roles.
The simplest way to do this is to implement a robust feedback system: your employees should know exactly what you expect of them, and be able to explain what support they need from you to fulfill their potential.
Experienced creatives won’t want the micromanagement an intern might need.
Beyond the sales department’s annual bonus, you’ll need to work out how to measure and recognize exceptional performance.
Invest in HR and understand that management is specific skill – not a promotion earned through time served.
It’s never too late to embrace adaptability, and the difference will soon show on the bottom line.
How Can Leaders Embrace Adaptability?
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