Striking out on your own can be a scary thing. However, what can be even more of a challenge is following someone who’s just starting their business from scratch. It might be old colleagues, partners you’ve worked with, new hires, or otherwise. There’s an energy and a momentum to a new startup team that has just started rolling that can feel almost infectious, but without the right plan to organise and capitalise on what everyone brings to the table, that steam can run out and the wheels can stop spinning, leaving you dead on the tracks.
Here, we’re going to look at a few ways that you can make sure you have plenty of fuel to shovel into your startup team to keep them running.
A strong vision
There are a lot of good answers to “what makes a business.” Many will say that it’s the “idea,” the product or service that you can sell, as well as how you can sell it. But startups need more than an idea, they need a vision. A strong vision statement can outline, in only a few sentences, the overall aim of the business. No matter what decisions have to be made in the micro, if they can be kept consistent with the overall vision, then you can make sure that the rest of the team has a direction to follow. Naturally, the vision itself isn’t enough, but it’s the foundation that you can build on. Start with your ideal vision statement, and keep expanding from there.
Choose people who fill the gaps you leave
You might have your own set of valuable skills that you bring to the business. However, are you going to be able to run the ship entirely on your own? The answer is most likely a no. For that reason, you need to identify what gaps in the business you are unable to fill, either because you lack the specific skills necessary or because you are busy with other duties. This might mean individual processes or areas of the business. It can be the sales side of things, understanding the products you are making, industry experience and contacts. Whatever the gaps are, identify them and choose people who fill those gaps.
Focus on skills that work in the long-term
It’s important to recognise that the startup phase of the business is not indicative of how the business is going to run. At the very beginning, people will find themselves fitting roles but it’s important that they are not rigidly stuck to those roles as, when the business becomes more stable, they are going to find that those roles don’t need them anymore. Ensure you’re working with a team that has the long-term skills to adapt to the business as it grows and changes. Make sure that your business structure is able to change to reflect the growth of the business as well. The majority of businesses that fail to make it to two years old do so because they don’t prepare to scale.
Plans of action
Without the effective organisation of the labour at your disposal, you are going to end up running into constant workflow blockages. More than one member of the team might be working independently on the same processes, people might work ahead of others, causing bottlenecks, and all sorts of other issues can prevent you from reaching the desired outcome in the best fashion. To that end, you should consider making use of workflow mapping software that allows you to plan with your team. Figure out every individual’s role in the project, where it fits, what resources and finished processes they require and more. Better project management might not be able to save every plan, but it is essential for those that can be saved.
Accessible and frequent communication
Your team needs to be able to communicate consistently and frequently. It’s essential for brainstorming solutions and improvements, for processing and responding to queries and calls for assistance, and even for improving the morale of the team. Now that remote working is becoming more of a reality, we have to find the structured, yet accessible means of improving communication. Tools like online chat room software are becoming much more commonly used in both large businesses and startups. Of course, these communication tools need to be balanced out with sensible standards of getting in contact. Some meetings are better kept to emails, but some conversations need to happen too rapidly to be constrained to an email. The right tools paired with the right standards make for the best communication.
A culture to work in
There’s more to how a team works together than how they plan, communicate, and carry out processes. There are norms and understandings that flow under the day-to-day that can seem hard to define at first. However, when you start to look into the different types of workplace culture, you can see what these undercurrents actually are. Take a look at the undercurrents of your business as it stands. Which are desirable and which would you rather get rid of? These are the components of your workplace culture and by deciding which kind of culture you want to build, you can also see the norms that you can encourage and those that you should stamp out. Then you can make sure that the team members you work with in the future fit the culture that you have created.
Invest in the team
The shared sense of helping to build a business is going to be a clear motivator for anyone who gets in on the “ground floor” of the business. However, as time goes on and they continue to work on that aim, they also need ot have personal motivations. It’s not enough for the business to grow, they have to grow as people, as well. This benefits your business, too, as you’re building a future leadership team with a range of competencies. Find business training courses to make sure that your team is always learning new skills and then finding the opportunities to utilize them. It doesn’t matter what type of business it is, the greater the career-building opportunities, the more likely people are to stick around.
Bonding the team
A lot of teams bond well naturally, due to matching dispositions, the fair delegation of duties, and a workplace culture that is suited to the kinds of cooperation they are involved with. However, these bonds can break down or, in many cases, never have the opportunity to grow due to the simple problem of too much work and not enough play. You cannot force all team members to get on well. You can, however, make sure you leave room for team bonding moments, whether it’s activities like games or simple rituals such as having lunch together outside the office once a week.
Delegate with care
As the business owner, it is part of your responsibility to find the people on the team who are best to delegate certain duties to. This might eventually mean hiring people to take on those duties, but as your starting team finds their roles, you can reshape them to some degree. However, an important part of effective delegations, especially at leadership levels, is that you’re not just delegating processes to people. You should be delegating problems indeed, allowing them some level of autonomy to solve them in their own way. After all, they’re likely to come with better solutions than you might suggest once they have the opportunity to wrestle with that problem on their own.
Make feedback central to your business
A startup team workes differently from a much more established firm. Everyone in a startup team is vital to the ongoing growth of the business and, should they stay, will be cornerstones that it grows from. To that end, you should make sure that you take their place and role seriously. For one, you could learn a lot from them and their experiences both developed inside and outside the workplace. Learning can only happen via feedback, but you need to actively encourage that feedback and make it a common process in the business. You may need to teach the team how to give feedback and learn how to consider it and incorporate it.
A leader to follow
There is success to be found in democratising many parts of the way your team runs. When you’re dealing with subject matter that your workers are more experienced with on a day-to-day business, you should make sure they have some say in the decisions that they have a major stake in. However, at the end of the day, decisions need to be made centrally to ensure they can be made quickly and decisively. If you’re the business owner, you must be the person to play that role. This might mean that you have to take the time to develop leadership skills through courses or find experience in managing a team on a smaller scale first.