Building a new company is a huge challenge. An entrepreneur has a very lonely job at the top with very limited people one can turn to for help or advice. Yet, every entrepreneur faces very similar challenges that need to understood and addressed in our own unique ways. It is important to be a “learning” entrepreneur so that 24 hours in your day are optimally utilised for the benefit of your people and your business.
In this article, I am highlighting 12 of the challenges that I have faced while building my company.
No task can be too large or too small for you
As the founder, you have to adapt, accept, adjust, create, innovate, motivate and deliver. You need to function as the Chief Executive Officer on the one hand and the Chief Janitor on the other. Therefore, no task can be too large or too small for you. In the early days of funding my company, I have cleaned office and store floors while preparing for a board meeting or an investor meeting.
Sharing information about what is going on in your startup will help in bringing a level of awareness and hence the commitment to the business plan. However, sharing information should be done on a “need to know” principle. Therefore sharing the detailed financials of the company with the junior most employee may not necessarily be a very wise decision.
Adjust your management style
As you build your startup, your small team of colleagues will expand and the people closest to you will start to feel insecure of the new entrants because you will not be able to spend as much time your old colleagues as you used to. At the same time, your new colleagues will want more and more of your time so that they can deliver what they have committed to achieve. You will need to adjust the way you manage all your colleagues without letting anyone feel insecure or unwanted.
Lead by example
Most startups need long hours and while you, as the founder, are willing to work 24 X 7, your colleagues may not necessarily feel the same level of commitment. Lead by example. When your colleagues see you doing things that they would normally not do, the barriers will start to break down and everyone would be willing to put their weight behind the success of the business.
Empower through delegation
You would like to believe that no one can do the task better than yourself but remember that there is a challenge in trying to be a “jack of all and master of none”. If you have had the foresight to hire a good management team, empower them properly and delegate tasks so that you have the time and the energy to focus on other matters that your startup needs you to focus on. Besides, your functional heads will have a much better understanding of the issues in their departments than you would.
Set small “bite-sized” milestones
While developing ambitious business plans, please remember to break the big set of numbers into “bite-sized” achievable numbers that people can deliver. For young companies, you will need quick wins to keep a very diverse team of people motivated and committed to working towards the bigger goal. Don’t try and conquer the world in one day!
Remove road blocks and obstacles
See your own role as that of the person who leads the team that will shoot the goal as well as the person who defends the goal. Cut down bureaucracy within your young company. You need to set a scorching pace and as the people start to gather momentum, you need to keep running ahead of then so that you can keep removing and clearing all the road blocks and obstacles.
Give and take feedback
Giving regular feedback is a much better process than to wait till the end of the year and then give your feedback during the annual appraisal cycle. Regular feedback will help your colleagues to course correct as the event happens than wait till the year end. While giving your feedback, remember to ask for feedback as well from your colleagues about what they think about the organisation, your plans and possibly on your own management style. An open culture will foster strong bonds between colleagues and an excellent work culture.
Be judicious with your time
Most founders get involved with every little detail of the business resulting in key tasks that the founder should handle personally getting a lower priority. The same applies when a founder tries to micro manage every employee of the company. You need to be able to focus your time on key tasks and manage the key people. How you define “key” is something you will understand very quickly in your startup when you realise that you seem to be fire-fighting all the time!
Keep your eye on the road
As the founder who has probably invested your life savings in your business venture, make sure that you keep your eye on the road. Keep a close track of your expenses and your revenues. After all this investment is your hard earned money and you need to ensure that it is spent effectively.
Work hard but remember to have fun
Every management team wants to make their work environment interesting and a place they look forward to going to every day. Informal get togethers as a team inside and outside the work place supports bonding among team members. Show a little bit of your own vulnerabilities at such events and you will be surprised at how much team members will start to share with you.
Say a sincere thanks whenever you can
Startups can be very high pressure environments and not everyone is able to handle the pressure. At the same time, everyone likes a word of appreciation from the boss. Coming from the founder, a simple “thank you” carries a lot of weight. Be generous with your appreciation. Your colleagues will love you for this.
Undoubtedly, these are a tough set of learnings that need to be implemented by most founders but then starting up a new enterprise was never going to be easy!
The author is the founder Chairman of Guardian Pharmacies and the author of 5 best-selling books, Reboot. Reinvent. Rewire: Managing Retirement in the 21st Century; The Corner Office; An Eye for an Eye; The Buck Stops Here - Learnings of a #Startup Entrepreneur and The Buck Stops Here – My Journey from a Manager to an Entrepreneur.