‘It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.’ E.E. Cummings
A blog from speaker and psychologist, Alice Beveridge.
Over the last few years I have had the true privilege of working with a range of start-up businesses that have experienced massive growth even against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.
While supporting these businesses I have recognised some similarities as these businesses grow and develop in terms of both profit and people as well as experience.
The Toddler Phase
At the beginning of any start up there is a childlike excitement and passion to bring your business idea to fruition. In this phase, which I refer to as the toddler phase, although things may be a little scary or outside of your comfort zone the excitement, motivation and passion is at the very core of everything that is being done. Most often at this stage there is a small team of passionate people with drive and excitement steering your start up towards the next phase.
The Tween Phase
Much like humans however, businesses do not stay in the toddler phase for long. Those that are successful begin to grow up and try as we might to hold onto that small close-knit feel the simple fact of growth can make business relationships and communication more challenging. As we enter the tween phase there is a chance that we begin to make recruitment decisions to help our businesses grow. In every start-up I’ve worked with I have seen both excellent and abysmal recruitment decisions happening at the stage. The difference between those that survive and thrive and those that disappear into oblivion is how long they’re willing to tolerate or live with a poor recruitment decisions.
The Teenage Phase
As businesses move into the teenage phase this is where I most often see them experience a rebellion. That rebellion can come from a number of sources; sometimes it’s the leaders of that business rebelling against societal expectations to act and behave in a particular way, often desperate to hold onto that start up culture that we can mistake good culture for good leadership. Yes leadership and culture go hand-in-hand but good culture needs excellent leadership in order to sustain itself you cannot just sit back and hope that what you had in the early days will somehow implant itself into every new individual or team that you bring into your business. It is your job as a leader to state and restate your purpose, your vision, your values, your aims and most importantly the behaviours that you expect to see from your people. Like human teenagers we can often be reluctant to recognise that actually the challenges that other businesses face are likely to impact your business too.
As your business reaches a level of maturity and enters adulthood it’s time to recognise the fundamentals that we got right in the beginning, acknowledge the mistakes that have been made along the way and ensure that as our businesses continue to grow that we learn from the things that have worked well as well as are things that haven’t. As we become more established we can worry that the culture that we worked so hard to cultivate in the early days is eroded by being boring grown-ups who have to comply with government governance policies, procedures and the stuff that we hoped didn’t apply to us in the early days.
How to Flourish?
The start-ups that I’ve observed flourishing over the last few years are the ones that have made some good choices along the way and I want to share with you some golden rules that can help you through that awkward teenage phase.
- It’s okay to make recruitment mistakes but fix them quickly. It’s easy to get overly emotional about these decisions but for your business to grow and succeed you must make the right recruitment decision for your business at the right time.
- Your leadership style will have to change as your business grows. This can be particularly difficult for the control freaks among us. In the early days with a small team it’s easy to control all aspects of your business but as you grow we must become more delegate of and ensure that we are coaching and mentoring our teams effectively so that they can do what you brought them in to do.
- You cannot continue to do everything yourself. Find people who are excellent at what they do and let them do it.
- Never underestimate the importance of one-to-one conversations with your most experienced staff. It is easy to assume that they are okay while you focus all of your attention on those who are needing guidance support or mentoring. However if you ignore your experienced staff you may miss problems as they arise or is this may lead to them feeling less valued than other members of your team who are demanding your attention. One to ones should be scheduled regularly and should be fixed points in your week. If for any reason you have got to move it make sure you immediately reschedule to ensure that people still feel valued. During these one-to-one is it is an opportunity to find out exactly how your team are doing what they need support with and what is going well.
Which stage are you at just now? What’s next for you? And how can you use these observations to support you as you, your people, and your business mature?
Get in touch if I can help you on your way with coaching, workshops or strategy sessions, via Alice@treeof.com.