Essential Resources For CEOs, Entrepreneurs at Startup and Emerging Growth Companies
"If I had six hours to chop down a tree I'd spend the first four sharpening the axe."
-- Abraham Lincoln
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From the moment a new company is founded to its appearance on the Fortune 500 list, executives must be able to transform the way they manage a company shifting gears, often dramatically, to ensure the company's optimum development. I am not referring to individual executive style here. What I am talking about is the total adjustment and evolution of the context in which major management decisions are made. I call this the Mode of Management, which is very dependent on the company's current developmental stage.
Would you make the same product development decisions in an identical way with one hundred dollars in the bank and no customers as you would with $50 million in the bank and 1,000 customers? Of course not! So why do many managers often run an organization in the same way despite the many gradual and often sudden changes that happen between these two extremes? It is human nature to continue to do what we have always done; to simplify and repeat what worked in the past, despite vastly differing circumstances. We need a system or context for adjusting and teaching the different modes of management as companies evolve. Some of these changes come naturally, but most are very subtle and linger far longer than they should. A failure to change can do substantial damage to a company before adjustments are made, or even doom the company to flat sales in the long term.
A key to ensuring corporate success is to let the various stages of a company's development determine it's overall management mode. It is a given that we must use the appropriate management mode for each and every decision and action we take in a company. The company's existing condition and/or stage of development is always the major determining factor or context for almost every significant decision.
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Bob Norton is CEO of C-Level Enterprises, which provides "C-Level" Help, coaching and interim CEO services to companies up to $1 billion in revenue. He has been a full-time CEO since 1989 and now works with companies to refine business models, polish company visions, maximize performance, and design businesses for long-term strategic advantage. He can be reached at Bob@CLevelEnterprises.com.
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Not Doing Any of These Things Can Be Deadly To Your Startup!
Few people understand the many different ways that a start-up must be managed as compared to more mature companies. Decisions must be faster, risks must be higher, and the solutions that are developed must be less complete (80% or less) and more narrowly targeted. During the bubble many "big company" executives were recruited to run startups with little more than an idea and huge VC investment. This, of course, came back to haunt the investors when they realized too late that running a startup is a very different animal than a larger company and these executives, though looking good on paper and in front of a board, were fish out of water in any startup company no matter how much money they had in the bank.
There are so many unknowns involved with a new product and market that you must ALWAYS iterate towards the best solution in increments - You cannot think you know all the answers up front, that is never the case. Odds are, many changes will be required along the way. There must be a trial and error phase to reduce risk and move from theory to real customer feedback and/or market data. In technology this is an alpha or beta test and it is NOT just for debugging. The sooner you can get here the few resources will be wasted. The best entrepreneurs are flexible and can change on a dime so long as it is not the fundamental principal, or the primary customer value proposition they are building their company on.
A startup must be designed and launched quickly, and then, with high quality and bandwidth customer feedback (read quality face-to-face interviews), it must be constantly modified. It is like a heat seeking missile that is always readjusting its course based on the latest radar data. Generally, big companies cannot do this, while startups MUST DO IT so as to leverage their main advantage over companies with larger resources!
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