If you've ever started a business or if you're working to grow your startup now, you understand the all-consuming passion and commitment it requires. As entrepreneurs, we tend to coddle our businesses much as we would a child. We feed and nurture them and protect them at all costs. Our businesses are like our children, and our lives are rooted in their success. But, for the business to grow, eventually, we have to loosen the apron strings.
Building a company for long-term scalability means planning for its future - one that might not always have you in charge of every detail. That's a hard pill to swallow for most entrepreneurs. But, if a founder's vision includes sustained growth, she needs to build her business from day one to succeed without her constant oversight.
When your business is young, you're cleaning up every mess, smoothing over every bump and personally taking on every mistake. But, your business can't learn to overcome these daily hurdles on its own, until you give it room to try. And, by allowing others to help guide your business to maturity, you can focus on the big picture, strategic alliances, and new ventures. Here are six tips to support the transition from hands-on entrepreneur to proud parent.
1. Invest in People Who Share Your Vision
An entrepreneur isn't going to allow just anyone to care for her business. When you're building your leadership team, look for people who believe in the future you envision for your company. But, avoid hiring in your own image - you want a team that balances and complements others' strengths, including yours. It's also important to consider who among them can lead the charge while you're exploring growth strategies or new opportunities. It's never too early to begin succession planning.
2. Exercise Financial Responsibility
When it comes to the longevity of your company, disorganized financials simply won't do. Whether you hire a CFO or a part-time bookkeeper, it's imperative to keep meticulous financial records from day one. The benefits of stringent accounting are many, but most important, it instills your stakeholders with confidence in your ability to grow the business.
3. Establish Processes Now to Support Your Business Later
When your business is just getting off the ground, building processes and procedures may not be a high priority, but they should be. Perhaps you don't yet have a need for 360° reviews or expense reporting, but eventually, your business will demand these processes. Implementing baseline practices in place early on will put the business in a solid position to sustain expansion in the future.
4. Embrace Professionalism
As a startup, your businesses' every move is under scrutiny by your investors, customers and employees. Show them their trust in you is well placed. Customer emails, sales transactions, marketing and social media messages, company branding and employee communications should all reflect a responsible, sincere image. This doesn't mean your brand can't be fun. Just think like the successful company you want your business to become, and then act accordingly.
5. Document Everything
And, I mean everything. From product designs, patent applications and trademarks, to customer complaints and HR issues, every detail should be captured in writing. When the lawyers come calling, you can't trust your business to memories and institutional knowledge. Make this practice part of your business to ensure you are never caught off guard
6. Invest in Your Technology Infrastructure
Often, entrepreneurs become so focused on building their product; they forget about their company infrastructure. A great product alone cannot sustain an entire business. Every business needs a solid infrastructure in place to support day-to-day operations, communications, customer service, sales, marketing, accounting and countless other functions. By investing in technology to make these activities easier and more manageable, you're also supporting the people you've hired to conduct these tasks.
Like starting a family, starting a business is scary, but also exciting. Without a doubt, the rewards are more than worth the all-nighters and ceaseless anxiety. The early years require hard work and diligent oversight - there's no way around that. But, in time, with careful planning and foresight, you can step back and enjoy the fruits of your labor...and start thinking about the next addition to the family, or take some time to focus on your real family.