The design of your organizational structure can have a big impact on your company’s performance as it will ease or hinder communication and action. Contemplate your personal leadership style and key company challenges when deciding on your design to optimize the match of needs and outputs.
Hierarchical designs work best for a directive style. If you want to control your company from the center, a hierarchical design (with a clear set of checks and balances) is the way forward. It helps you decide the level you want to empower others with decision-making abilities. The downside is that it is harder to delegate, can be slower to implement changes and the more successful employees may not like it.
Adopt a flat design if speed is your goal. Managerial review cycles take time and with a flat organization, you really do not have a built in, 1 over 1 type of process. So you get the speed in decision making but without someone to double check, a higher risk may be incurred. Empowerment is easier and employee engagement should also trend up. But coordination can be difficult and you will need to create forums for collaboration to ensure the entire team is on the same page. In other words, if you go flat, make sure everyone talks to each other.
Loosely-defined organizations can enable innovation. It is always smart to have your best people work on your biggest problems. If you do not set clear organizational boundaries, employees will migrate easily and quickly to the problem areas, develop ideas and feel free to quickly implement them. Sounds perfect. There is a drawback to this design however which is especially risky if you are surrounded with a bunch of type “A” players. They will all migrate to the problem and then fight about who is in charge. If that’s the case, make sure that there is a designated apex predator in the group to keep order.
Your vision, strategies and key tactics provide a basic framework for decision-making, enabling you to delegate. Well-informed employees are easier to empower and are more effective. As you control information flow, you should use it to guide your teams to the outcomes you seek.
Set a common definition of success. Success can take a number of forms and look different to each team member; this can cause confusion which is not good. It is imperative to be clear about how all of the pieces fit together. Most employees operate at a tactical level (tasks), requiring a clear framework for their choices. The clearer the definitions the better the result. For example you may want to emphasize profit targets, customer satisfaction, customer acquisition, productivity, market share or employee satisfaction as key measures of success. Each requires a different focus and will produce different behaviors. Make sure you can articulate what it means to your company as it will provide a basic framework for decision-making, delegation and empowerment.
Give direction. This may sound like the antithesis of delegation but in fact delegation and direction need to peacefully co-exist. Some situations — like a crisis — can call for an immediate action. If necessary, you can tell folks to just do it, provided that you explain why. You may have access to information they do not and this will help them understand and improve. Good delegation skills allow for directives in the right circumstances. Balance is crucial
Engender participation whenever appropriate. Get all of your employees in the game early and often by seeking their input on key decisions. This will increase the capabilities of your teams, allow you to take on more complex tasks than you could do by yourself and help promote growth while strengthening your company. The balance is entirely based on situations and will require some agility from you. If you have created the correct framework for understanding, have utilized direction sparingly, and promoted engagement at all levels, your organization’s IQ will be optimized.
Company advocates can promote growth and should be developed simultaneous to your brand. A great place to develop advocacy is right in your backyard. Your community is a direct economic beneficiary of your company’s work and can become a strong asset for your business. Through social media and word of mouth, it can reach large and important audiences easily and quickly. Give it the same attention you give your ad campaigns.
Seek testimonials from customers, employees and other stakeholders. Let your core constituents carry your message to their social networks and friends by creating programs that benefit them. Give them a forum to talk about the great things you are doing and put it on YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat or others. Corporate social responsibility can be a profitable endeavor if you design programs that address the intersection of interests between you staff, employees and community. Examine the needs of each group (mentoring, financial literacy, health awareness, etc.) and find common areas of interest. Then, ask your employees to build a program around it within a certain budget. If promoted correctly, the programs will attract media interest and offset the expense of building your brand.
Leverage media coverage in lieu of spending ad dollars. Invite the media to the party. Events like education, construction projects, school volunteerism, resource sustainability, healthcare activities etc. can easily fill pricey column inches in newspapers or minutes of programming time on TV. You may get a 10x return on your investment in addition to the satisfaction of doing the right thing.
Improve employee satisfaction by building pride in your company. Everyone wants to be proud of their place of work and CSR programs can be a good source of pride for your employees. This sense of pride can create a level of engagement that can carry through the office into the customer experience and the numbers. Your employees in turn will become your strongest brand advocates and help create a virtuous cycle of growth. Harvest their ideas and commitments by providing forums for volunteerism and you will grow your reputation as well as your revenues.
Define your 10 commandments. And then always live by them. You are always on stage and always being watched. Be careful of the rules you make and the example you set. Everyone will follow your lead.
Articulate expected behaviors. Always hold yourself to the highest standards but do not be afraid to also be human and allow yourself to make mistakes. In order to mitigate the impacts of those mistakes on your company’s culture, express what you expect from others. They need to do more than just try to be you. Challenging people can really bring out the best in most so ask others to comply with the professional standards you have established. Staff meetings, one-on-ones and town halls are all good forums for clarifying expectations.
Treat the values like the Constitution. They should be a source of strength and pride for your organization. They should provide for continuity but be able to adapt to the times, if needed. Revisit your values each year with your team and make sure they remain relevant. If so, carry on and if not, make adjustments. Dedicate a session to just this to ensure there is depth to the discussion and importance to the topic.
Do not underestimate the importance of creating a coherent company culture. You want people to be at their best, especially when you are not around.
To delegate does not mean to abdicate. You are still on the hook for the results. Contain risks if need be and be wise about when and whom you empower.
Establish authorities for key decisions and key people. Knowing who should decide what and when, is a key task of a leader. Be thoughtful about your delegations because they can be disruptive, empowering, risky, or energizing. Much has to do with the framework you establish and the understanding of the person who is taking on the role.Thus ensure that individual is not only able to decide but also understands clearly what you are asking them to decide. Always ask them to repeat back to you the problem, solution and expected outcome to avoid surprises.
Review reports on all facets of your company so that the surprises are as minimal as possible. An ex-President once said ‘trust but verify.” That is a key component of the delegation formula. Ensure you are getting the results you want from the risk you are taking by checking the decisions are showing up in the numbers. If so, reward. If not, reassess. Waiting does not make things better.
Perform audits on a routine basis to double-check whatever you are reading or being told. It is best to do this systematically and independently, for example via audits which can clarify things much more easily. Be considerate though when using audits as they can convey a lack of trust. Audits can also help with accountability and ownership of issues. Always remember you are dealing with people and therefore you must listen and talk.
Also reinforce ownership by having feedback sessions with individuals and teams on a routine basis. They all need to hear from you. If you can get this right, you can raise your company’s IQ points by the hundreds, have more satisfied employees and a better run company. Do not try to do everything by yourself because there is plenty of help out there like this.
All achievers are hopeful and optimistic about their next great success. It is part of our DNA. But a dose of objective reality is a useful antidote to anything close to a delusional grasp on your progress. So here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Use Scorecards to keep track of the key variables that drive your company. A scorecard is a management tool that synthesizes key data like growth, operations, talent and financials in one easy to read page and gives you a snapshot of your company’s performance. It can provide you a quick and easy to understand 360 degree view of your company. It is entirely data driven and can help you get into the habit of making key decisions with data as opposed to your gut feel, aka, opinions. You don’t need to know everything to navigate a start-up; but you do need to master the important things that are essential to your company’s performance. The best way to use it is to review it daily, share with your team in staff meetings and realign priorities as you develop your business.
Perform external research to keep you current with competitors, customers and trends. Don’t become so internally focused that you forget there is a big world out there with creatures that want to eat your lunch, want more from you or are just plain changing. Try to learn something every day about the environment you operate in and you stand a much better chance of adapting and flourishing. Looking at other’s websites, getting exit interviews of customers, and attending conferences are all practical ways to assess trends in your segment. Re-position your activities if necessary but using external data to inform your decision making will help you keep your value proposition sharp.
Review financial statements on a regular basis to make sure you have a handle on your profits. It’s all about the green at the end of the day. So make sure you know what’s going on with yours. Don’t guess. Use financial tools. Focus on the 3 key drivers of your success: revenues, expenses and cash flow. Get daily reports if you can but review your numbers monthly. Look for the unexpected changes in cash, revenues or expenses, both good and bad. There is plenty of help out there like this (link).
When a project is made, it should be with the intention of being sold. It can be tangible or intangible. It is the consequence of a process with the purpose of creating a good or service that satisfies a customer’s needs.This can take many forms. Some examples include:
- A tangible good, commonly known as a widget. Delivery and logistics for objects need to be expensively planned in order to reduce your risk of failing on your value prop and having costs get out of control.
- This is a highly-personalized experience that will depend on your ability to match demand with content and human factors. Both the message and the messenger are important and should be thoughtfully planned.
- There is a big difference between data (a commodity) and information (that adds insight to the data). Buyers of data will always go to the lowest cost producers with the most scale. Information providers can charge for the value of the insight. The latter will result in a far greater margin product. The point is to know the difference between the two and market accordingly.
All great companies are founded in great products. Creating a great product is a fundamental part of launching a start-up.
Sales are money for something. Sales are an exchange of goods or services for units of value. They are a referendum from your customers on the usefulness of your company. Every transaction affirms or denies their views or your company’s value. As a start-up, sales are a part of everyone’s job. And everyone should follow the same formula:
- Know your customers’ expectations. Be prepared to clearly explain the benefits of your products from the customers’ point of view. They may not agree or understand everything you are offering and may object but you can overcome objections by addressing them directly. If they have to work to figure out what is in it for them, chances are they will not make the purchase. It starts and ends with listening.
- Exceed your customer’s expectations. Comply with the basics and then think of something extra for your customer. Make it happen and you will be repaid with repeat purchases. This requires a full understanding of customer needs and thereafter, where you fit in to their plans.
- Sales is a process of listening, building, adjusting, exchanging and listening again. It isn’t just being talkative or persuasion. It is a profession that requires listening skills, analytics, discipline and follow through. All are characteristics of a good leader; not simply a likeable person.
Developing satisfied customers are a fundamental part of building a growing company.