So you’ve founded a startup with you and your buddies working around the table until 2am every night. But before you go on tour, let’s talk about keeping the band together. You can find the first part of this post here.
The Balancing Act. It is crucial to get a balance between empowering people and accountability. People join early-stage startups often in hopes of a new empowering experience where there is room for growth, responsibility and camaraderie. However, if you take people out of established frameworks and couple them with a wealth of problems to solve on a small budget, you are left trying to figure out what exactly you are getting for your money. Furthermore, no one wants to manage by simply looking at the minimum value per head that justifies their value. Instead you want to aim for their top-line value – but how do you get there? To maximize output, you need to make people feel empowered, accountable, and included.
Tips to simultaneously increase accountability and empowerment:
- Encourage firm commitments from each department. Similar to daily stand ups, have group brainstorming sessions but meet with your cofounders ahead of time and decide what initiatives or deductions you want each department to come to.
- Build a culture of capacity communication. Use a tracking tool to enable people to manage their own time. Build a culture from Day One where you strongly encourage people to express when they are under capacity and can take on more. When you are more aware of your team’s capacity you can divide up critical special projects and increase the productivity of your team by passing around the one off task while they still hit their core KPI.
- Grow your team into leaders. Help them start thinking as leaders by assigning them each as “head of a division”. Ask them to break down the tasks in their division and come up with a plan to scale their division, while increasing headcount and keeping costs low. Agree to a vision for their department and get a commitment on metrics by which they will measure success. Give them ownership to drive for the right numbers and ask for headcount when they need it. This gives you visibility into what they believe their job is and allows you to both support them and keep them accountable.
Think in Sprints. One tip you will hear a lot is to always validate your idea before investing — stay lean by testing your assumptions around your product and ideas about who your customer is. In the same way that you focus and test channels, you can apply this same process to overall time management. Working in sprints allows you to not only see the results of your work but breakdown any goal into actionable tasks. Sprints also prevent you from floating around all day without getting anything done. Nothing is better than giving yourself more time than you need because it challenges you to think outside the box and push yourself to find new methods to hit your target. Then the task is done and it’s just about processing the leads or results as they trickle in throughout the week.
Hustle, Hustle, Hustle. As always, hustle. It is so frustrating to hear people complain about not being able to fundraise when they aren’t putting themselves out there. My first questions in response include: have you gone through all the people in “venture capital & private equity” industry title in Linkedin, have you mapped out all wealth in the city you are in, or even looked at your competitors’ investors? There is never a dead end — instead, what you might be facing is a lack of creativity.
Pollenizer Partner and Startup Coach
Andrew has been captured by the creativity and energy of enterprise; seeing how things come together and working with businesses to make ideas come to life. He has worked across Asia developing business processes, strategy, and operational excellence that enables businesses to succeed.