By Dr. Thyonne Gordon
CEO, Beyond Story
AABLI alumni, Class #3
Starting a business or organization is an undertaking that usually comes straight from the heart. Vision opens the doors, brings in volunteers and begins a swell of meaningful work. The start-up’s heart energy pumps at full speed.
But a heart constantly pumping like a prizefighter’s is not a healthy thing. It is not sustainable. Leaders must take it down a notch and recruit a team that will help the organization grow at a steady pace. That growth comes from creating strategy and setting goals that are planned by the head, not the heart.
For AABLI’s fifth anniversary, use these five tips to lead your organization from a start-up to a midsize business:
- Add structure with processes and procedures. As you grow your business, it will be important to add standard processes and procedures. Something as simple as how the office opens each day should be standardized. The founder/owner won’t always be the one who opens the doors; a standard procedure ensures it will be done the same way each time.
Your business processes will change over time in response to the market, competition, customer demand, the economy, culture and personal beliefs. Plan for the inevitable by formalizing processes. You may not want to document those that seem too simple, but nothing is too simple when it comes to keeping your business on point. Set a baseline for when to improve the processes and train people to implement and update them.
- Up Your Human Resources Game. With a small team, the hiring process is usually informal. Team members know each other intimately. It’s easy to have impromptu meetings. As a midsize company, however, you will need a more disciplined hiring and meeting process.
Establish a formalized interview process, evaluation criteria and meeting protocol. Your employee handbook should be updated and reviewed with legal counsel. If you haven’t used an attorney in the past, it’s time to up your game in that area, too. Good legal counsel is essential for human resources.
- Recruit a high quality team with varied skill sets. In managing a larger entity, you will need to ensure that your employees work well together. To achieve that, hire a diverse staff with expertise in administration, communications, accounting, IT and–it must be stressed–your business product or services. Most important: Care about your people. Business expansion often means a heavier administrative and operational workload, so communicate with your team about changes. Listen to and address their concerns. Make your work environment as comfortable as possible. If you demonstrate that you support your team, your team will support you.
- Change speed working to disciplined working. Most start-ups focus on getting as much done in as little time as possible—with as few resources as possible. Migrating to a larger organization means there will be more constituents to serve. You and your team will need to work with more discipline and consistency. You must decide which practices will help the team in the midsize organization deliver and improve at the same rate as the start-up.
- Reinvent, but be clear about your values. To survive your growth period you must be agile and willing to pivot a bit. This might mean changing your strategic course or a complete change of your business model. Whether creating extension products and services or expanding on current work, change is going to happen. Embrace it. Incorporate it into the culture of your business. But you must continue to disseminate your core values. As you grow, it can be challenging to maintain consensus on your values. Enable people to make decisions effectively and on their own, but always with the understanding that those decisions should fall in line with the values.
When leaders live the values, put protocol in place, embrace change and follow the procedures listed above, the team is sure to follow. Lead by example so your start-up can grow up.
This blog is not written by aabli.org or The African American Board Leadership Institute. The author is solely responsible for the content.