Start Up Phase Over – Now What?

“Communication breakdown.  It’s always the same Having a nervous breakdown Drive me insane”

Lyrics from Communication Breakdown by Led Zeppelin

One of the real thrills of being an advisor to entrepreneurs is getting the chance to watch a fledgling startup evolve into an early stage growth company.  Like an adolescent moving on to adulthood, you suffer through the pains of minor failures and rejoice at the success maturity brings.  As is usually the case, after witnessing this phenomenon hundreds of times, it is easy to make some observations about what seems to have worked.  While many facets of an evolving entity are involved here, these are my top five focus points which seem to foster success when they get into the sight of an emerging entrepreneur:

  1. Communication – you can probably guess from my sighting above that first and foremost, there has to be a focus on communication.  Expectations are higher as you reach this stage.  What you expect from others, the ability to talk to every employee every day and other techniques that were your modus operandi begin to get challenged.
  2. Build your team – you by now realize you can’t do it all so finding the right people to help execute your vision is key. This is another “says easy; does hard” challenge. Use all the tools you can from word of mouth to social media to attract the right talent. Do not skimp on the time you spend in this area. It is your most important task.
  3. Direct vs. do – instructing others instead of doing it yourself requires a different skillset. It means planning and setting goals so others can help to move the business forward. Letting go a bit becomes the biggest barrier to success but soon you realize you can’t just cram for that exam the night before and ace it. Not enough hours in the day for that approach.
  4. Establish processes– yes, as non-entrepreneurial as it sounds, those that are successful in executing a growth plan follow processes. There is a reason places like Zappos achieve their levels of customer satisfaction – there are tested processes to cover every situation
  5. Formalize measurement– you can’t just look around and see what is happening anymore. You need formalized goals and ways to measure progress against those goals. You can’t see product going out the door if your distribution center is now hundreds of miles away.

So, as you take your journey to success, reflect on these points of focus and never lose sight of the “culture” which is your company and which in many ways, helps to determine not only what you are but what you will become.  Have a great trip.

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