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7 Steps to Turbocharge Your Startup Without Losing Your Best Talent

Could following these steps help another company accelerate its growth?

Peter S. Cohan

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If investors aren’t satisfied with a company’s growth rate, they might try to replace the CEO. The incoming replacement typically has about eight weeks to figure out what’s wrong at the venture and how to fix it.

A quick turn onto a new path is desirable so that the company can grow faster and investors see the new executive as part of the solution. But that’s not always easy because the new chief inherits the people who were responsible for the old strategy. Those staffers may feel threatened by a new strategy and try to undermine it.

Related: (Video) 11 Obsessions of Remarkable Entrepreneurs

The new leader could replace them but at the risk of losing valuable talent. Instead, a CEO might be better off managing a process to help employees see the company’s future as he or she does. Then all the company’s oars are rowing in the same direction.

John M. Collard, chairman of Annapolis, Md.-based Strategic Management Partners, conceived of turning around a company company as a five-step process. His white paper that named each of steps in the title: ‘Management Change, Situation Analysis, Emergency Action, Business Restructuring, and Return to Normality‘.

Shane Buckley put his own spin on enacting dramatic change, by using seven steps, after becoming the CEO of  Xirrus in the summer of 2012. As he explained in an interview last week, he saw that Xirrus, a commercial Wi-Fi firm, had a presence in schools and universities but needed to expand its markets and selectively outsource activities previously done in-house to lower costs.

“I changed our business and a key part of that was outsourcing many of the activities that Xirrus had done internally, such as manufacturing,” he said. “I knew that implementing this … would require a big cultural change.”

Buckley could have fired the employees, replacing them all with people who saw things his way. But he decided to bring in an outside management consultant, Judy Issokson of Issokson & Associates, to help him lead the process of changing Xirrus’s culture.

The following seven steps that Buckley took to change Xirrus’ strategy without replacing all its people could be of help to other firms.

Related: How to Be a Successful Entrepreneur in Your 20s

1. Meeting with all employees

Buckley started off as CEO by meeting with people both inside and outside the company. “During the first six to eight weeks, I had a chance to figure out what was working and what needed to be fixed,” he says. “I met with all customers and partners. I also spent about 30 to 45 minutes with groups of six to eight employees to ask them what is happening.”

Listen to customers, employees, suppliers and industry experts to figure out the markets to target and capabilities the company needs to win.

2. Creating a safe zone to talk about the truth

People are naturally afraid when a new CEO arrives. Buckley hired Issokson  to help dispel that fear. She created ground rules to help employees feel confident that they would be safe if they told her their true feelings about Xirrus.

Explained Buckley: “I was working with Judy to help us identify the barriers to getting Xirrus where we wanted to be. I realized that since [the company was]  going to outsource activities like engineering that Xirrus had always done internally that the engineering staff might have different skill sets than what would be needed. But I wanted people to feel free to express their concerns” in a safe environment.

When a CEO’s vision depends on radical change in the company’s strategy, it’s a judgment call whether to keep most of the employees. If the decision is to work with current employees, the leader needs a way for them to replace their fear of change with enthusiastic buy-in to the CEO’s vision. A CEO who’s great at managing change can accomplish that. Otherwise, hire an experienced consultant (after checking references) who has done this for similar companies.

3. Getting ideas for future goals

Buckley wanted people in the company to articulate what they believed needed to be done. He met with his executive staff and the whole company, he said. Over four to six weeks people were asked, What do we need to do? What are our key objectives? He was not given the answers directly, though.

Hiring a consultant who’s good at managing a process leads staff to feel like they came up with the same goals for the company as you did. The key thing to remember is that if your people believe that the company is implementing their ideas, they will embrace those ideas much more enthusiastically than if the ideas are forced upon them.

4. Asking questions about key objectives

Issokson analysed the responses and presented her analysis of the top five priorities.

CEOs should react carefully to ideas proposed by their staff. If people feel that the CEO is taking pot shots at their ideas, they’ll turn into resentful sheep rather than enthusiastic problem solvers. So ask questions about the ideas proposed in a way that’s respectful and seeking greater understanding.

5. Allocating resources to the priorities

And after listening to the responses, Buckley decided which resources would be assigned to meet the key objectives and in which sequence.  One priority was to make Xirrus a company that was easier for customers to do business with. “We decided how we would change the way we would bring in customers and how we would respond to their questions,” Buckley says.

Determine the urgent priorities and be sure they get the capital, people, technology and other resources needed to make them happen first. If the most important priorities are realised, the company will survive long enough to get additional resources for less mission-critical ones.

6. Sustaining momentum

When priorities are set and resources allocated accordingly, people wonder whether the company will follow through. To that end, leaders must model the behavior they want to elicit from employees. Said Buckley: “You have to be authentic. Leaders have to do more. People want to see that you are working harder than they are. And they ought to feel free to give the leader feedback and keep the momentum going.”

Remember, people are always watching the CEO. The ones who want to get ahead will do the things accordingly. If the CEO is working harder than they are, they will try to keep up or even exceed his or her efforts.

7. Linking measurement systems to priorities

Lastly, the way people are measured must be consistent with those priorities. Buckley decided that if customer requests were to be truly valued, “we can’t keep measuring them just on whether they met their sales target. ” He added,

“We need to start tracking how satisfied customers are as well.”

Communicate clearly how the new strategy will affect staff recognition. Then change the measurement systems to line up. That will go a long way to getting staffers to make the company’s top priorities happen.

And Xirrus is planning an initial public offering next year, according to a March story in the Pacific Coast Business Times. Buckley claimed last week that Xirrus is thriving, growing 40 percent year over year, it added 70 people and seeking new markets with a new footprint.

“On a human capital level,” he says: “People are more engaged, they work together across functions, and the company is moving faster because trust has replaced fear.”

“Xirrus has executed a masterful expansion of the business since Shane Buckley joined,” wrote Steve Krausz, general partner for US Venture Partners, whose firm invested in Xirrus. “In my 29 years of venture investing, I have seen few companies go through such a successful transformation as Xirrus,” he says.

“Xirrus now has a complete product offering that has anticipated the explosive growth of mobility, video and cloud management of Wi-Fi services. The customers have responded with great enthusiasm as enhanced video and mobile services are being demanded by both consumers and enterprises at an ever accelerating pace.”

Editor’s Note: This story was updated to include Steve Krausz’s comments. His title was later corrected to reflect his role solely as a venture capitalist whose firm invested in Xirrus. Also, Xirrus CEO Shane Buckley’s comments have been updated to indicate that only one area was outsourced: manufacturing.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

Peter Cohan is president of Peter S. Cohan & Associates a management consulting and venture capital firm. He is the author of Hungry Start-up Strategy: Creating New Ventures with Limited Resources and Unlimited Vision (Berrett-Koehler, 2012).

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Start-up Advice

9 Quotes Every Entrepreneur Should Live By

Entrepreneurship takes great perseverance. Failure is common. In fact, it is expected. Over 75% of venture-backed start-ups fail.

Jennifer Keithson

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Entrepreneurship takes great perseverance. Failure is common. In fact, it is expected. Over 75% of venture-backed start-ups fail.

There are great learning opportunities that present themselves when we fail, but we must be willing to continue on and try again in order to learn anything at all.

It can be quite an arduous task to strive for your own means, to create your own vision and to rally the support within yourself that starting and running your own business requires.

Thankfully, we’re not in it alone. The wisdom of others can greatly ameliorate the process learning from our missteps and hiccups.

Taking from sagacious investors, inventors and thinkers can help you pick yourself up and make something meaningful out of your quest to become a successful entrepreneur.

By studying the thought processes of other entrepreneurs, we can become more enriched and more aware of how to approach the challenges we face in business and in life.

Here are 9 quotes every entrepreneur should live by:

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4 Tips To Secure Funding For Your Start-up

Here are 4 tips to help you secure funding for your start-up.

Ellie Martin

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Entrepreneurs seek to create new and ingenious ideas. Successful business owners are adept at looking at things in new and interesting ways. Their creativity fuels everything they do. Blazing through the initial steps of opening your own start-up can seem like a breeze if you’re endowed with this creative mojo, but you still may find yourself stuck at the very last step of starting your business.

Finding funding is undoubtedly the most difficult part of starting a business, and securing it requires the most creativity of all. Still, you can only stretch your creativity so far. Luckily, there are a few ways you can improve your chances of getting the money you need, regardless of whether you decide to attract angel investors or venture capitalists, or if you decide to apply for small business loans and grants.

Here are 4 tips to help you secure funding for your start-up:

1. Seek alternative funding opportunities

Before taking out a massive bank loan, consider these other funding options:

The vast majority of entrepreneurs either use their own funds to start their business or borrow money from friends and family. According to Forbes, 90% of start-ups fail, with 25% of them failing within their first year of operation. Due to this rate of failure, if it really is impossible for you to attract investors or secure venture capital, it is still best to avoid putting up your own money. Before draining your personal savings account, look into other options, such as crowdfunding. Research small business grants as well, as these can help cover gaps in funding.

2. Write a top-of-the-line business plan

If you’re interested in attracting investors, you’ll need a solid business plan to lure them in. Regardless of how wonderful your idea is, you must communicate that idea effectively and back up your claims with thorough research. A tightly organised business plan has the ability to assure investors of your industry know-how. It will give them a picture of how you plan to run your business and how accurately you can assess and address risks.

An entrepreneur who has a business plan with a punchy executive summary and a precise market analysis in hand is more likely to attract shrewd investors than one with only an inspired (and undeveloped) idea.

Related: Business Plan Format Guide

3. Network, network, network

The absolute best way to find investors is to network. Generally, you never want to cold call investors with your business ideas. You want to build relationships naturally with those in your industry and in your local community. Talk with other business leaders and go to local events. Offer to help other entrepreneurs and established business owners. They may return the favour by introducing you to reliable angel investors or they may steer you to a venture capital firm that helped launch their start-up. They may even offer to pitch in some of their own cash, if they really take to your idea.

Moreover, to make sure your networking efforts are effective, try to pinpoint the audience who would be most interested in your idea.

“Network selectively,” advises American author and entrepreneur, Steve Pavlina. “Take the time to build a profile of your ideal customers, and target your networking activities to reach them. Speak to those who are already predisposed to want what you offer.”

Building connections is a vital part of creating your business. You’ll need to build new ones and strengthen existing ones, not only to get the funding you need in the short term, but also to survive as a business in the long term. 

4. Be prepared to compromise

Asking for funding for your startup means experiencing failure time and time again. Most of the investors you’ll encounter will pass on your idea. You shouldn’t take this to heart. It’s all a part of the process. You may find that in order to get the funding you need you’ll have to give a small piece of the business over to an angel investor.

Your first crowdfunding effort may fall short, and you might have to incorporate feedback from backers and implement changes to the core of your idea to crowdfund successfully the next go around. Don’t be too rigid with your vision. If you’re willing to make some slight changes, you could have a much better shot at landing a deal.

Securing funding for your start-up is no easy task, but it is certainly not one you have to do alone. Enlist the help of friends, family, and business associates to help you craft a superb business plan, meet other entrepreneurs and investors, and make revisions to your idea. Use their input to help you find other ways to fund your start-up, such as small business grants and crowdfunding. Use these 4 tips for securing funding for your start-up, continue researching your target market and refining the way you approach investors. Without a shadow of a doubt, if you’re willing to seek the advice of others and compromise when necessary, you’ll find a way to fund your start-up.

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7 Strategies For Development As An Entrepreneur

What follows are seven simplified yet key strategies to develop yourself as an entrepreneur which are a hybrid of the authors’ practical experience and what he has learnt from very successful entrepreneurs, coaches, and consultants over several years.

Dirk Coetsee

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What lies behind you and what lies in front of you are tiny matters compared to what lies inside of you” – Ralph Waldo Emmerson


I am an entrepreneur, I surround myself with business minded people, I am privileged enough to be mentored by great leaders. I speak to visionaries, I write about them and learn from them.

What follows are seven simplified yet key strategies to develop yourself as an entrepreneur which are a hybrid of the authors’ practical experience and what he has learnt from very successful entrepreneurs, coaches, and consultants over several years.

A wise man once told me, “A higher level of consciousness does not mean you are better than anybody else it just means your mind sees from a higher vantage point and therefore you see clearer than most.”

Related: 8 Entrepreneurs Share Their Best Advice For When The Going Gets Tough

Those wise words lead us into explaining the first strategy:

1. Expand your consciousness

Simply put your consciousness is nothing but what you are aware of. By increasing what you are aware of through experience, study and honest self-reflection and by inquiring deeply into every aspect of your business as to increase the quality of your awareness you are enhancing the quality of your experience as an entrepreneur.

The second strategy often referred to as priming or framing is commonly used by successful entrepreneurs:

2. Priming or framing

Priming or framing is creating a positive mindset first thing in the morning which builds mental strength and the capacity to face the day with a very good attitude. This is, in essence, done by creating a morning ritual or habit for yourself which can take whatever form you prefer, as long as the outcome of it is a stronger and better you.

Some prefer meditation and/or prayer. Others repeat affirmations in the mirror. Some take the quiet early morning hours as the opportune time to read and learn more about their craft. Exercise is another way to start your day in a positive way. See this exercise of Priming or framing as an investment earning compound interest over a period of time.

nelson-mandelaGoogle whom any famous leader or entrepreneurs’ mentor was and a name or many will most certainly pop up. Nelson Mandela’s’ mentor was Oliver Tambo, Warren Buffet holds the Dale Carnegie certificate proudly displayed on his office wall in high regard, the famous investor Ray Dalio is still coached by Tony Robbins.

Related: (Podcast) Being An Entrepreneur Is Painful

That explains why you should:

3. Be willing to be mentored

When I facilitate training or a coaching session a common objection to being mentored is: “ Yes , but I do not know anyone that could mentor me.”

Honestly, what a lame excuse. Most servant leaders understand that it is part of their duty to society by leaving other servant leaders and/or entrepreneurs behind and are actually just waiting for your call.

It is really as simple as that, make your list of people that you look up to and want to be mentored by and call them, sincerely tell them how much you admire them and ask for guidance and mentorship. To those whom knock sincerely a door will be opened.

There is no such thing as a “self-made man” as everyone has received some help in some shape or form along their journey of entrepreneurship.

It is much harder to give up on something that you really have worked hard for over a long period of time as opposed to something that you have approached with half-hearted intent and little effort.

Therefore:

4. Hard work compounded by smart work

Hard work is not only something that you should do to stay ahead of the competition but a necessity in order to build resilience.

When you have lost sight of your purpose and vision as an entrepreneur decision making becomes drastically harder, your morale might be affected negatively, and your bank balance might suffer as a consequence.

So:

5. Ensure that you have constancy of purpose and a clear Vision

A very effective way of priming and/or framing is to remind yourself of your purpose and vision every morning. Make your Vision and purpose visual by displaying it clearly at your office. An entrepreneur cannot talk regularly nor enthusiastically enough about his or her vision and purpose. When you have not wholeheartedly bought into a vision and purpose how can you expect your team to?

ian-fuhrThose whom embody servant leadership of which the founder of Sorbet, Ian Fuhr is a prime example know that unconditional giving as a principle not only builds character but empowers others so that we can not only grow as businesses but as people.

Related: 10 Young Entrepreneurs Under 30 Share Their Start-Up Secrets

That is the reason for:

6. Giving without expecting anything in return

When you give of yourself unconditionally you have a true servant heart and your clients will not only be loyal, but they will love you in general. Giving unconditionally feels good and receiving unconditionally places no burden on you and creates a wonderful and vibrant work atmosphere, generally speaking.

When you only take a stand on your principles and values during good times yet allow them to crumble in the face of challenging times “your house is divided and cannot stand”.  Your principles and values must become ingrained practises and not just frivolous words.

Taking the aforementioned into account:

7. Have non-negotiable principles and values that you live by

As an example, if when respect is a non-negotiable value that you live by you will refrain from losing emotional control and will be willing to walk away from a conversation where someone dis-respects you.

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