Growing a start-up into a business is about execution
Growing a start-up into a business is primarily about execution – making the right decisions at the right time. CDI Global’s William (Bill) Surman, has published book, “Growing a Start-Up into a Business - Guidelines for the CEO” that contains more than 200 insightful suggestions and exercises on how to best manage and grow your small business. None are particularly complex concepts to understand but many can be challenging to execute. These are straight-forward, practical suggestions on how best to handle situations with your people, your customers, and your products.
We will highlight a few exercises from of the book over the next few weeks.
Many of these guidelines you probably already know and practice. Customers are buying your products/services, you have built a team, and the future looks good. Through implementing more of these suggestions, you’ll clear the path to move from a start-up to a thriving business.
Sorted into categories, these suggestions are written succinctly and directly so they are easier to remember. The first two sections confirm your understanding of the dynamics of your business, its product or service and your customers. These are the essential foundations for growth. Next, it expands through the best practices for efficiently executing growth.
Much has been written about the importance of people, product, and process for the management of young businesses. This book expands upon those major topics with suggestions on various situations. It speaks to putting the best people into the best roles for them, making sure your product/service is appropriate and needed, and how best to organize and manage the many processes required to operate an efficient, scalable business.
The suggestions are designed to help you think more clearly about your start-up as well as introduce some new concepts for your consideration. Building a business is a long and complex process with a different path for every company.
As you read through this book, identify which areas to address first for your business and develop an implementation plan. When a problem arises, refer to the relevant section. It may help you to move in the right direction. Make the most impactful changes first and decide which ones can wait.
#1 Exercise: Know Yourself
Know what you don’t know – There is always so much we do not know. Recognize when a conversation is going into unfamiliar territory. Do not decide anything until you have asked your experts for an explanation and guidance.
Listen to everything people say – not just what you want to hear – Everyone has a bias to listen for confirmation of their current thinking or desires. A different perspective can be hard to accept. It is dangerous to move forward with blinders on. Be open to new thoughts and listen carefully.
Understand how far your leadership can take the business – The founder’s work is to take the company from its initial growth into becoming a sustainable business – possibly up to $10-$25 million of annual revenues. Typically, a team with different skills is needed to grow the company to $250 million, and another management team may be needed to grow it from there. The capabilities that have made you successful to date may not be the capabilities needed to move forward.
Know when to think about selling the business – If your energy and passion for the business has begun to wane, it may be time to start thinking about selling. Select a good M&A advisor to start preparing for the process. Although you probably are contacted regularly by private equity funds, the advisor will help you find the best buyer which often can be a strategic investor such as another company. Clearly understand your motivations and your optimal exit strategy.
Know your highest and best use in the business – The founder eventually moves into a better-fitted, more focused role – engineering, manufacturing, sales or even being the public face of the company. Where do you see yourself once the company has outgrown your management skills?
EXERCISE: Write a few sentences on where you see yourself and what your highest use will be at various stages as the business grows. Base the stages on time, revenue, headcount, your own age, having another child or another definitive event.
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Click here for the book
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