What was it about the early days of your business that made it such an exciting place to be? Remember when heading into work was fun – a genuine challenge that you, and everyone who signed up for the adventure, also looked forward to?
Maybe, if you’ve done things right, then it still is that place. Hopefully you and your teams are still relishing the hard work of making your business and your original vision a success.
But I also know that there are many business owners who have rapidly lost this feeling as their business has grown. Their business is getting bigger, they have more clients, and the order book is looking promising for the months and years ahead: but there is something missing. Here’s my take on what that might be – and how we can all help to re-introduce a little bit of that ‘start up’ magic back into your enterprise.
Manage your growth
In my experience, growth is such a tricky phenomenon for so many new businesses to handle. Clearly, it’s good – it shows that customers and clients love what you’re offering, and that they’re demanding more of it as a result. But it’s also easy to lose sight of what this kind of growth, which is often rapid, actually is: dramatic change.
Of course, change is a huge opportunity for any business, but it is also a real challenge – it requires strong leadership, recruiting the right people into your growing team, and clear, consistent communication. These are all things that it can be very difficult to keep control over, particularly while you’re in the thick of managing a growing number of orders and a rapidly expanding customer base.
So, my advice is to manage that growth as closely as you can. Be very clear about what kind of expansion you can afford – but also define precisely why and how and in what direction you want to grow. Growth is natural – but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be trained and managed in order to meet your ambitions.
Have a clear vision that makes you different
It’s probably the one thing that sets start-ups apart from businesses that are at other stages of their life cycle – the clarity and focus of their vision. In a start up environment that vision is hard to avoid. If you’re the founder of the business then you embody it for your teams, every time you walk around the office and talk to people face-to-face. The relationship between what they do on a daily basis, and the powerful vision you all have together – is clear, and feels achievable.
Yet ironically, as your business grows (and in theory as you get closer to achieving that original vision), it can be harder for everyone who is a part of your expanded business to see how they can contribute. The message becomes diluted, and a situation develops where people begin to feel like they are working for ‘just another company’. That feeling you had when you were a small start up, with everyone pulling towards achieving something truly different in the industry, is lost.
So what can you do manage all of these changes, and to try and recapture some of the start up spirit? Once again, communication is key – as well as recruiting the right people who will respond to your original vision in the right way. Creating a new and collective sense of belonging, and a renewed dedication to achieving a shared goal comes down to one thing – creating a great culture, and that has to be led by you as a leader.