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Monday, May 23, 2011

Don’t Confuse Your Team

Entrepreneurs starting companies come from a wide range of backgrounds and training.  Your motivations to create and innovate are real and probably as strong as your enthusiasm to have the business succeed.  The business is your BABY and you are the PARENT.  This means you are learning.  Your business did not come with a rule book that provides step-by-step instructions. You have advisors, mentors and other resources, but each business is unique and comes with unique challenges and learning requirements.

In taking a new position in an established company, it often takes several months just to understand the culture and people.  You will establish a game plan for running the group, understanding the business, and identifying milestones and objectives.  A startup is the same, but your leaning needs to be quicker and adaptations are made sometimes daily.  Your instructions to the team you created are likely to change regularly as you attempt to adapt. 

You have a team.  When you asked them to join, you provide for job titles, functions, objectives and milestones.  At some point, you may want to take back some of those responsibilities back and do them yourself.  This is your prerogative.  But, you need to communicate the directional change to the employees being affected.  They will never perform to your standard if you do not tell them what the standard is or that it changed.  Also, you will have them continuing to attempt to perform the original tasks while you are attempting to do the tasks you just decided to take from them. 

Your team cannot read your mind.  They are not privy to all of the latest advice or suggestions you received.  Even though you changed your mind, your team will continue to operate according to the last set of instructions you provided.  As the CEO, you always have the right to change direction.  But, make sure your team knows you changed directions and then lay out a clear set of new objectives.  Also, it does not hurt to provide more information as to why and how you project the change will improve the situation.

You originally selected the location of your company for convenience, because you live there, or some other reason.  The team you assembled may be few but they are likely highly dedicated to your cause.  There will come a time when you review the location of the company in a more strategic manner.  For example, companies often find it easier to recruit in regions where larger companies of similar technology are established.  Look at Biotechnology in Massachusetts, California, and North Carolina and see where startups were created and exist near centers of experienced personnel.  Relocations to regions where talent is available for hire results in lower recruitment costs and increased ease of relocation of the employees.  If the business does not succeed, the employees have other opportunities to find work without moving.  The decision to relocate is natural in the early days of the startup.  Decide on the facts and get it over with.  Don’t forget to take care of the current team in the process and don’t turn the decision into big ordeal.

Like the example of a move, the decision process is a common issue for the CEO in every startup.  There will be many decisions and each will have pluses and minuses for your consideration.  Part of the job of being a CEO is making the decisions.  Flip-flopping and changing continuously does not generate good morale and leads to lack of ability for your team to move in the direction you want.  Make a decision and provide clear directions as to what changes need to take place.  Don’t keep changing your mind every time someone provides a new idea.

There is a high probability that as the first time entrepreneur you find yourself working in a field in which you have minimal experience.  It sometimes takes a long time to become familiar with all of the aspects of the field and the surrounding business.  The team you assembled hopefully has the experience you are lacking.  Second guessing the directions is natural, but when you second guess, at least do so from a position of having attempted to understand the space and the issues.  This means you have to work extra hard to learn as much as possible before you start second guessing.  You should try to work as part of the team and foster respect as their knowledgeable leader when addressing the business. Your team will lose confidence in you as their leader and they will have difficulty meeting objectives if you continue to direct but fail to understand your business.  Make sure you read everything you can about the business and issues.  Then consult with your advisors and experts. Try to understand the business and address changes from a position of in-the-know. 


Summary:

1.     Make sure your team knows you changed directions and then lay out a clear set of new objectives.  Also, it does not hurt to provide more information as to why and how you project the change will improve the situation.

2.     Make a decision and provide clear directions as to what changes need to take place.  Don’t keep changing your mind every time someone provides a new idea.

3.     Make sure you read everything you can about the business and issues.  Then consult with your advisors and experts. Try to understand the business and address changes from a position of in-the-know.


You can follow Taffy Williams on Twitter by @twilli2861 and you can email me with questions at twilli2861@aol.com and my company website  or photo website. You can also find me in the group Startup Group on Linkedin. The blog is now listed on Alltop®.

1 comment:

  1. Great articles on Startup. Your welcome to post a link to this in the LinkedIn group Marketing for Startups (invited you on twitter)

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