Earlier this year, the Kauffman Foundation Index on Startup Activity, the largest index tracking entrepreneurship across the United States, reported an unexpected change. Not only did the 2015 Index reveal the reversal of a five-year downward trend in entrepreneurship activity, but this reversal came as part of the largest year-over-year increase in startup growth in the past two decades. With start-ups on the rise, it seems the business world is in a golden age for entrepreneurs – so what does a new or seasoned startup CEO need to know for success?
Even after a company is far from a startup, continuing to evolve and improve upon what employees are inspired to build together is of the utmost importance. Evolution is necessary for any business, but that doesn’t mean the business has to change completely to move forward. By following the below principles that help a company come into its own at the outset, success is guaranteed for years to come.
The common anthem in America that work is difficult and unenjoyable couldn’t be more depressing. Entrepreneurs typically love what they do and then find people who love their area of core competence to support the dream, giving them the chance to be part of creating something greater, not just earning a paycheck. By building a company that’s more than just money, leadership creates a culture that gives people opportunities to learn, grow and contribute to the company as a whole. In addition, allowing people who are passionate about their work the freedom to be their most productive however and whenever that works for them inevitably leads to bottom-line success for the company – and happy employees who enjoy coming to work.
Though many companies still adhere to the conventional way of approaching hiring decisions – using a detailed job description and requiring candidates to meet certain background requirements before even considering an interview – many companies can benefit from a less rigid model of finding new employees. One formula may be to break up hiring criteria into buckets that are most important for the company, taking into consideration candidate interests and competencies that may fit a role even if their personal work history is not an obvious fit for a position.
Starting a business from ground zero isn’t easy. New companies all experience bumps along the way – operational miscues, staffing errors and of course, sales mistakes – and those early experiences should shape what each company becomes. There’s no shame in making mistakes, only missed opportunities if one doesn’t learn any lessons from them. For some, that’s recognizing that employees prefer one-on-one interaction with team members versus large, group exchanges, for others it’s learning that certain customers may prefer subtle touches, like picking them up at the airport, over grandiose gestures like expensive steak dinners. CEOs who learn early from mistakes, and apply them to the business will get ahead.
During growth periods, many entrepreneurs are challenged by how to maintain their startup enthusiasm while fostering an environment in which team members feel valued for the contributions they make to the company. What worked a year ago likely won’t work now, so it’s vital to constantly evolve and reinvent a company and its processes. By focusing on hiring employees who fit the culture and are passionate about the company’s goals, much of that evolution takes care of itself. But there are instances where leadership has to decide if some old ways have been outgrown, which is hard and a bit like growing up. That decision happens for all of companies at some point. What leadership has to remember is that moving a company in a direction that keeps it thriving is of the utmost importance. The personality and roots that helped form the business don’t go away because habits change. They come to life in different ways by fueling future moves.
Andrew Philipp is President & CEO Clarus Glassboards and has seen the evolution of the company from a garage startup to a thriving company of more than 100 employees firsthand. He enjoys sharing the tips he’s learned along the way with entrepreneurs at all levels of business creation and expansion.
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