By Elizabeth Brashears
Oct. 3, 2013
Every startup company has big dreams of fast growth and increased revenue. The early stages of a new venture bring with it great excitement. Along with the Red Bull on the table, people are getting things done and perceived genius is being birthed right in front of everyone’s eyes.
Startups are exciting because they are filled with potential but the reality is that two-thirds of all startups fail within two years. For those that do succeed, most start out slow, and some may hit a growth curve at a later point in time. Then there is that rare breed of company that puts the pedal to the metal and grows fast and furiously from the get-go. How do those rapid-growth companies go from a startup sensation to a company with the potential to endure over time?
An infusion of capital could certainly be helpful, but there is nothing more critical than the organization’s leadership and the way the leaders drive the ultimate culture of the business.
The good news for the new leader is that the old adage that “Leaders are born, not made” is simply not accurate. Leadership is a process of influence. It can be taught and honed like other important skills. Additionally, there are a few principles that leaders should remember. Whether a company is experiencing fast growth or they have begun to stabilize, these leadership principles could potentially make or break where the company is headed.
- It’s about people, not about strategy. The strategy, the product, the service, the technology; they all mean absolutely nothing without the right people to make it happen. Focusing first on developing and engaging employees will have a more significant impact on the business than if all of the effort is focused on the strategy. Engaged, productive employees will fulfill the company’s strategy and continue the organization on a trajectory of growth.
- Effective leaders drive the company culture. Leaders spend time and energy to make decisions every day regarding available resources, whether those are budget decisions, product decisions, process decisions, or decisions around people. The appropriate amount of time and energy should also be given to the core fabric that serves as the foundation of the organization. Culture drives or impedes the success of an organization and leaders must actively work to control it.
- Strong leaders identify and live out the values that are important to the organization. Every organization is guided by a set of beliefs and values. These values communicate what an organization believes and what it considers to be important. Establishing a set of Core Values for a company can help the organization as it continues to experience growth.
- Recognize and leverage the strengths of others. Many leaders focus on overcoming weaknesses and miss the powerful asset of truly leveraging employee strengths. Every individual has a unique set of strengths that when identified, nurtured, and channeled appropriately, can have a dramatic impact on employee engagement and the overall performance of the company.
- Great leaders inspire others and create a vision for the future. During the early stages of a company, inspiring others to see their vision of tomorrow’s success is vital. A vision should create alignment within the organization and it should create action that will provide the momentum to continue the organization on a trajectory of growth.
- Leaders should operate with honesty and transparency and promote trust. Trust is an inherit part of leadership. Leaders should say what they mean and mean what they say. Trust is at the heart of leadership and when a leader “walks the talk” and builds trust, care, and concern into those they lead, it can create a bond that can overcome even the toughest of challenges.
- Good leaders take the time to solicit feedback from those around them, and then they do something astounding-¦they listen. That feedback can be used to build consensus among employees and give them ownership of the ideas and concepts to be implemented within the organization.
The impact of leadership on any organization is significant, but when a company is in growth mode there is much more at stake. If not managed properly, this pivotal time of growth can sabotage the future of the business and things can quickly spiral out of control. When leadership is properly executed, a small venture can become a bigger organization that can endure over time.
Liz Brashears is a director of Human Capital Consulting for TriNet, overseeing their client experience for the Southwest. In addition to partnering with clients on human capital strategies, Brashears is the national practice leader for TriNet’s Leadership Development practice and advises clients on assessment and leadership matters. She can be reached at www.trinet.com or [email protected].