Starting up may be hard, but the real struggle for many successful start-ups is in taking it to the next level of maturity. The reason is pretty simple – an established company is fundamentally different from a start-up – both in terms of structure and processes.
In his iconic book, ‘What Got You Here Won't Get You There,’ Marshall Goldsmith talks about the new skill-sets and attitude you need to acquire as you move up in your career. It’s the same for your organisation too. Often, an organisation that has shed its start-up tag needs to focus on slightly different priorities - executing a known business model, generating profits, creating leaders and performing teams and achieving liquidity for its founders and investors.
The trouble is, the transformation process from a start-up to the next level is hardly a linear transition. Instead, it is more like a metamorphosis, making it especially hard and confusing.
Anticipating this change and preparing for it is a great idea. While you need to give adequate thought to your growth strategy, make sure you don’t underestimate the challenges in executing it on the ground.
Some things to consider when you’re in the process of planning your growth strategy.
Think about the ‘Why’
When you first started, you probably had a mental image of the company you were building and the problem you aimed to solve for your customers. Now is a good time to take a hard look at the company and check if it turned out the way you imagined it to be. Important note: It’s perfectly ok if there is a disconnect; but the important thing is to be honest with yourself and acknowledge the change; especially if you’re ok with the change. This exercise if even more crucial if there is more than one founder because it is important for all founders to be on the same page.
As you plan our growth path, agree on what your Lowest Common Denominator is. It is important to spell this out at the pre-growth stage because as the company grows, this belief system will percolate down to new leaders, employees, investors in the future. It will determine what your company will stand for in the future.
In the early days of a start-up, communication happens seamlessly. It’s usually a small team, so you tend to be aware of all that is going on. But as business demands increase, communication often becomes less frequent, and restricted only to operational aspects. The larger discussions around company vision etc. tend to take a backseat, unless there is a deliberate effort made. Over time, this slowly leads to an alignment mismatch between the founder/s and the team. The only way to prevent this is to have effective communication processes and channels in place, right from the start.
Relook at your Organisation Structure
Start-ups often operate, or even thrive, without defining very distinct job roles. Fluid job definitions work pretty well since the focus is simply on ‘getting stuff done.’ But if this style of functioning continues into the growth stage, it can be recipe for chaos. As you grow, ensure your organisation structure is aligned to your growth objectives. Don’t shy away from delegating to experts, so everyone can focus on what they do best.
Right People for the Right Job
At the end of the day, it is your people who will eventually execute your plans. Therefore, the importance of hiring people with the right skills and temperament to execute your plans on the ground cannot be overstated. Once you hire, you need to make sure that you equip them with the right tools, structure and performance metrics to enable them to succeed.
Building and growing your organisation is a true joy, but having these basics in place may help ensure that the growth is sustainable in the long-term. Onwards and upwards from here!