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Entrepreneurship is a deeply personal endeavour, especially for founder-CEOs who must believe in their companies above anything else. Indeed, a startup is not terribly different from parenting, in that thousands of hours are spent nurturing children and and helping them to grow.
In both the result is a strong attachment; in startups, the attachment is inherent in every step of the building process.
Early on, it’s the details that capture a founder’s attention: the logo, the elevator pitch, the sales decks. Later, it’s the product that founder-CEOs tend to agonise over and tightly control.
Once you’ve found the ideal product-market fit for your company, however, there is something else you must do: let go.
To understand what this means, imagine what would have happened had Larry Page and Sergey Brin continued to work to improve their search algorithm for Google – rather than build a business off their technology with AdWords. Sure, they’d still have the best search engine in the world, but without the business model, they wouldn’t be able to stay independent or thrive.
Alternatively, had Mark Zuckerberg not evolved into a great CEO and just continued writing code and running the dev team, Facebook might have become another MySpace rather than a $200 billion company.
Once a company’s founder gets attached, the company encounters its greatest obtacle: making sure that the founder-CEO backs off enough to scale his or her job duties in lockstep with the company’s evolving demands.
As a serial entrepreneur and angel investor myself, I have learned that as a company finds its product market-fit and gains customers, the greatest skill a CEO can demonstrate is to to get out of his or her own way and let go.
Here are three areas which a budding CEO should focus on less after finding his or her best product-market fit:
1. Let go of responsibilities that are not yours
The hardest part of being a successful CEO is learning to let go of specific job functions you’ve grown to enjoy, and bestowing that responsibility and trust in your team. Needless to say, if you’re a first-time founder CEO, your expertise is in something other than being a CEO.
So, you have to be ready to let your earlier expertise or preferences go and take on CEO-only tasks, especially the development of a clear vision and a strategic leadership, and the management of growth.
Another consideration is that once the company is growing, and you’re looking to hire and offload some of this responsibility, you should look for people who are not going to do the job exactly as you would.
Instead, surround yourself with great people who bring different experiences, fresh thinking and opinions to the table, and who are complementary (not identical) to your style. Let go of your own ego by encouraging questioning and independence.
2. Let go of the product
Early-stage founder-CEOs (especially those who come from a product background) will be drawn to micro-managing their product teams. This is often counter-productive and leads to hobbled, ineffective PMs, who are not given the creative latitude to try interesting things.
The danger is even stronger if the company’s initial product, created by the founder-CEO, is in the market and doing really well, as the CEO will likely have a higher opinion of his or her own product prowess.
This is an especially controversial point in Silicon Valley, where VCs want their CEOs to be obsessed with product. Once growth starts, however, this obsession can really hold a company back.
While founders should continue to be involved and hyper aware of the product and strategic direction, they should allow their PMs to thrive.
Obviously, some products won’t find their fit, so it’s important for CEOs in those companies to constantly analyse and judge whether the potential for a breakout product is even there. These leaders should distance themselves enough to see the big picture and pull the plug or pivot on an idea, if necessary.
3. Let go of day-to-day business functions
The first 10 to 15 initial hires are incredibly important for a startup, and the founder-CEO should be heavily involved in screening and hiring decisions. However, once you go beyond that number, it is too much of a time sink as founder for you to be involved in finding the best people.
In fact, as the company reaches a certain size, the CEO should not be thinking at all about day-to-day business functions, like HR, accounting and finance.
Someone else needs to make sure there’s water in the water cooler. Certainly, the CEO has to focus on keeping the lights on, but someone else should replace the light bulbs.
The reason is that the CEO needs room to grow with the company and focus on vision and strategic direction. Getting bogged down in these details will only hurt.
What the founder-CEO should focus on instead
Let’s say that the company’s strategy and vision have been set. Say that there is an initial product in the market, and the company is seeing growth. Now it’s time for the CEO to focus on accelerating that growth via sales and marketing, and optimisation of the company’s market strategy.
At a startup, the CEO must also constantly have his or her pulse on fund-raising. If substantial revenue has not yet been generated, or is trickling in, the company should be preparing for the next round.
Fund-raising really is a full-time job and, at most startups never stops. So, make sure you have room in your day to day to focus on this priority.
Finally, the CEO should constantly be checking in with team members to make sure the company vision is clear. There is nothing more draining than a vision that is either unclear or changes all the time.
For the founder-CEO of a growing startup, then, the priority should be on flexibility and the drive to continue through constant change. The one thing that will keep that founder sane will be an ability to focus on what is most important and let go of the rest.
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
How Your Company Can Become A Champion Of Change
Take control of the change management see-saw to achieve your business objectives
Constant change is a reality for business owners, but today that change is happening faster than ever before, both within businesses and across industries. Transformation has therefore become a strategic non-negotiable as companies must adapt to remain relevant in this era of unprecedented disruption.
Unfortunately people – your staff – are hardwired to resist change. It’s predominantly a subconscious psychological response to a fear of the unknown and the uncertainty this creates.
This is a major reason why few organisational transformation initiatives succeed (just 30-38% according to a commonly-cited McKinsey study) in achieving all of the project’s objectives.
However, there is an effective process that business owners can follow to successfully implement, manage and champion change to more effectively adapt to a modern marketplace that’s in constant flux.
Step 1: Define the objective
A business owner must first clearly define the new business objective that necessitates the change. We call this the Victory Condition.
It’s a company’s ultimate measure of success, and establishing this objective is vital to ensure that everyone in the business knows where the company is headed, particularly as this information will define their Path to Victory.
Step 2: Create buy-in
However, forcing to staff to follow this path without their input and consultation – important processes that make their buy-in more likely – can amplify their resistance to change.
Without buy-in there’s no shared common interest in the process or the objective. That’s when resistance usually manifests as inertia, petty meddling and sometimes, outright destructive behaviour.
Step 3: Tip the see-saw in your favour
The catalyst for disruption during periods of organisational change is usually negativity. Even the slightest negativity can tip the balance of the change management see-saw against business owners and company leadership when trying to implement and manage a transformation strategy.
That’s because most staff tend to sit in the middle, waiting to see which way the see-saw will tilt.
The fact that most people are tuned to gravitate towards negativity means the balance of forces can easily swing in that direction when there’s a groundswell of negativity within an organisation.
To tip the see-saw in your favour it’s crucial to identify and root out the ‘bad eggs’, as they’re the ones who draw staff to the negative side. It’s also vital to ensure that the company identifies and works to retain its good people. With this combined approach, leadership will greatly enhance the probability of success.
Step 4: Identify and create champions
The final step is to create champions for growth and impact within your company. This is the other reason why you need to retain your best staff. These are the people who will help to shift others within the organisation to the right side of the change management see-saw.
To do so requires empowering these champions to become catalysts for positivity, by letting them lead through demonstrable action according to the business’s Victory Condition.
However, to ensure that this is the kind of action that benefits the business, your champions need to clearly understand the objective, and the potential paths the business can take to get there.
Empowered with this information, it’s then up to them to communicate and share the Victory Condition with the rest of the staff, and ensure they understand it. This creates organisational cohesion and ensures that everyone is working towards the realisation of the Victory Condition.
Business Leadership – Learn How To Embrace Change
Embrace change! It is the new intelligence!
“Embracing change is the new intelligence”
Initially your IQ was considered in most circles to be a key determining factor of your success as a business leader. Deeper research into the realm of emotional intelligence has revealed its potential as a catalyst to build meaningful and results driven relationships that can change the world.
Yet another highly interesting topic of conversation has been echoing in lecture halls, boardrooms, and the minds of entrepreneurs. Scary to some, very exciting to others, changes within an industry or business environment are always just around the corner. To get to intelligent, pragmatic and very useful answers it must begin with intelligent and practically orientated questions:
“Just how important has your ability to adapt to useful change, forced changes in the market place or industry, as a core leadership skill become??
The author shares the opinion of numerous modern thought leaders that identifying useful change, embracing it, and incorporating it as a part of the company culture has become a core skill. A skill that every entrepreneur and leader must possess or learn that is if they have a strong desire to build a sustainable ,thriving company and leave a lasting legacy. Your ability to embrace useful change is at the very least more important than your IQ and equal to if not more important than your level of emotional intelligence.
A successful change journey starts with a healthy view of useful change and the acceptance of as Robin Sharma says:
“Change is always hard at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end…”
Understanding the real purpose of a change intervention and how it aligns with and serves the vision and goals of your company is the launching pad for a successful change intervention. I must point out at this stage that a wise performance coach once shared that:
‘The success of any transformation is highly dependent upon the internal state of the person or people driving the change journey’.
To clarify and simplify the above it can be applied to our daily lives. Our attempts to lose weight are often stymied by our need for the immediate gratification of tasty food and a full stomach and we fall in love with the warm feeling/s associated with that.
Losing weight poses another challenge to us. It pushes us outside that space of comfort that we love so much. The journey asks more from us. The willingness to sacrifice the known for the unknown is also a requirement that proves to be a bridge too far to cross for most.
If however you fully understood literally all the benefits of a weight loss journey and especially how it aligns with your life’s’ purpose and goals your willpower will be enhanced as well as your general attitude.
Lets’ say as an example that you are an entrepreneur whose purpose is to positively transform the lives of your clients through the use of your product. By losing weight in a healthy way you will not only look better, feel better, you will also have the energy to work harder at your goals of for example selling more products.
You will have more energy and willpower to coach and empower your team. Therefore weight loss and fitness considered within a positive paradigm that is not only aligned with your personal health goals but also with your purpose as an entrepreneur will likely give you the necessary perseverance to succeed that is if you sincerely believe in your purpose and considered all benefits of the change intervention.
I recently facilitated a change intervention at a factory as a consultant. Initially most involved thought they were just going to receive orders to produce and sell more of a certain product. Instead their own purpose was revealed to them and how producing and selling more of the product could enhance their own skill set, performance, and self-development.
More importantly they realised that this change intervention could potentially enhance the income and experience of their customers vastly. According to the feedback received they felt more motivated and empowered than ever, and are achieving way more sales of the product range that they are focussing on than ever before.
When a change intervention is truly embraced by your team because they truly feel and understand the purpose of it and are excited about how it will positively affect their collective future and their internal state mostly positive powerful and lasting results can be achieved.
Another ‘insurance policy’ that goes a long way in ensuring sustainable success in business within a challenging and changing environment is to establish a learning culture within your business. Strongly encourage and create circumstances ideal to practical learning which also embraces the opportunity to learn from failures and apply solution driven thinking.
When your team members pursue learning and positive experimentation they will be more open minded and confident when useful change interventions can be exploited for further self-development and company growth. Embrace change! It is the new intelligence!
The Future Of Work: Creating Excellent Culture To Be An Employer Of Choice
Millennials already make up a significant percentage of the “new workforce”. They seem to flourish in work environments where the experience includes diversity, transparency, and collaborative work cultures, with flexible working conditions and work that contributes to positive social influence.
Why it is important to be “an employer of choice”
An employer of choice is not only in business for profit, but also to ensure that their people develop the potential, as humans. This is not only done for the good of the business, but to develop individuals who are responsible stewards working towards a common purpose of healing or refreshing fellow humans and the earth (fauna and flora).
If you are in business and you have people working with or for you, you want to attract a mix of employees. Some will have the best industry skills for example, and others will have exceptional leadership capacity. More importantly, you would want, regardless of skills, people with great positive attitudes.
Attracting employees with top-notch skills, outstanding character and great attitudes would require that you design a business with excellent character and culture.
Vision Led and Values Drive Employer Value Propositions (EVP)
The line “vision led, values driven” is well known. To be a successful business you have to have a meaningful and resilient vision to inspire your team, driven by robust and powerful values.
It is crucial to communicate well with employees “why” and “what” they are part of achieving (i.e. vision). Vision needs to be externally focused; describing the desired impact to be made on the world, or how the business aspires to create a better society.
Having a vision to buy into and the values that support it, forms part of the Employer Value Proposition (EVP) – this is what employees are offered in return for their hours of work.
Research shows five elements that employers need to focus on when defining their EVP: Rewards, opportunity, organisation, people, and the work itself.
Creating an Employer of Choice culture
In short, listen, then listen a bit more, and then act accordingly.
Start by serving your clients and your people, clearly understanding their needs, wants and desires. Then build a vision to fulfill the needs and always do business responsibly.
There are various ways to determine the needs of your clients and your employees. We focus on the needs of employees and have designed a culture assessment to understand the internal culture. It also measures some external elements, like customer service from an internal perspective.
We focus on elements relating to how we serve, bring harmony and patience, experience joy, being good and kind, building trust and having self-control. Once you understand how your culture looks, then you can define how you want it to look or what you believe it should be in terms of values.
Create an excellent culture that adds substance to your EVP, to be an Employer of Choice.