Ideas are fast to generate ... and slow to turn into reality. That's why CEOs worry about competitors beating them to market. But it's essential not to let this concern affect the final product, or the resulting stress can lead to added deadlines, micromanaging supervisors, and an authoritarian environment.
As a leader, how can you handle the desire to get to the end product quickly without overloading your team? HBR's Scott Anthony suggested five ways that will help small businesses accelerate the process of scaling up.
1. Stay Small and Focused
A smaller team leads to flexibility and agility; a large team can amble through discussions or take hours just to find a time to meet. Amazon's Jeff Bezos uses the "two pizza rule." If a team can't be fed with two pizzas, it's too large. And as Jason Fried from 37Signals says, "There's nothing wrong with staying small. You can do big things with a small team."
2. Boots on the Ground
Rather than hiring a consultant or marketer, Steve Blank's The Startup Owner's Manual advises, "Get out of the building" and explore the neighborhood. Act like a cub reporter, walking out to interview and meet with individuals the company will soon work with: customers, suppliers, shopkeepers. Doing a soft opening or test run can help iron out kinks as well.
3. Use the Right Data
For a company that's still in the process of learning about itself, it's not always the best idea to use definitive, quantitative checkpoints at the outset. Instead, managers should focus on employees' learning and comprehension of the company concept. Think of alternative metrics that will be more useful at your current stage: IBM measures the number of customer interactions or speed of prototype creation, rather than sales spreadsheets.
4. Keep Funding Flowing
Investors don't hand out money like parental allowances: it's not a scheduled reward that comes every three months. Businesses have to prove they can handle the finances appropriately and responsibly. Once a problem or step is completed, investors will provide money for the next step. So be methodical; if a CEO is careless, the investors will pack up and move on.
5. Consult With Experience
While management may plan out growth initiatives, they can be too far from the ground level to understand the logistics and details. As a solution, it's key to consult with people who have already begun start-ups, either from within the company or as outside consultants. Without experience to draw on, your company might start out sluggishly. Mark Pincus has said, "Get five or six of your smartest friends in a room and ask them to rate your idea." They may be able to find solutions with fresh eyes.
Anthony concludes with a single ratio question: how much time is spent preparing for organizational meetings versus meeting with customers or develop products or connections? If it's higher than 1:3, you're slowing yourself down and things need to change.