You’ve had an idea, a good one, the type that attracts business angels and other investors. You’ve got the funding to start with. You’ve had your first successes aligned with your business plan. From a small team of partners you’ve evolved to the size of a small corporation with a management team you have hired progressively. You are now facing a higher demand for your offer. Your ambitions are now larger than you ever expected. It’s a real threshold for you and your small organization. Year after year your business is becoming something else. It’s not a start-up anymore; not yet a real company. What is missing ? what do you need to be able to succeed in this second significant growth step ?
You certainly need to understand and address the specific strategic & economic issues in your business area. But it’s not enough. You need to clarify and prioritize other issues you’re going to be facing on the way to success. What are they ?
Your vision and the strategy will need to be shared and to be embodied in the day to day management practices. This means that leadership practices should be inspiring and irrigated by a permanent search for new ways of doing things. Company organization and structure should be oriented toward innovation and engagement; all management policies and processes should strive to operational excellence.
The leadership team and the other management layers need to play at another level. They need to reinforce their skills and adopt efficient leadership practices that serve the company’s strategy. Decision and delegation processes will be reviewed to ensure that they are letting enough space to individual contribution and collective intelligence to deliver a performance aligned with your strategic requirements.
In a start-up mode the management focus is short term oriented. What counts is immediate success. Day after day, month after month, issues are coming at you and need to be solved immediately to allow progression. There is very little time for planification and long term thoughts. Issues are fixed in the very moment. It’s a matter of life or death. After having succeeded to survive and develop a certain level of business, you and your management team have more time to plan the next steps and to design the way to success. It’s time to have a road-map and to define performance indicators to track the progress. A dashboard becomes necessary as you become more and more distant with actual day to day field operations.
For a company, growing in size and geographical coverage induces more risks. The chain of command is longer, resources are not always in the right amount or quality, cooperation among the different part of the organization is becoming more and more important, organizational complexity is growing, level and timing of communication are becoming crucial, understanding of market conditions and regulations in foreign countries are sometimes difficult to grab. These few examples of potential risks are calling for more structure and more « industrialization » of the company.
Growing in size and developing a more complex structure induce a level of change in the organization. Not only employees who participated to the company success at very early stage may find it difficult to cope with the new way things are done at present time, but the founder or his/her early associates may be stuck with mixed feelings about the new reality. There is an important emotional dimension to change and transformation: Fear to fail for some people, anxiety to lose identity or original agility for others …lack of consciousness about the challenges to undertake.
One recommendation : Don’t stay alone to deal with these questions.