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As your business grows, you will find that everything starts to get complex. What was once a simple task completed by you is now a maze of steps performed by multiple teams. For many small business owners, this becomes a major challenge. Many business owners start their business with the attitude that they can do better than existing businesses. This translates into the idea that “if you want it done right, do it yourself.”
While this helps a startup business owner gain a foothold in the market, it can stunt growth if there isn’t the ability to delegate the work. This is the great paradox of growth. How do you use the advantages of the founder mindset without it becoming a disadvantage? Here are some ways to avoid bureaucracy when scaling:
Related: When it’s time to grow, sometimes you have to let go
1. Build the systems
The first step to capitalizing on growth opportunities is to learn how to systematize aspects of the business. Going out and selling to a new client becomes more of a process and less of your own intuition.
You need to start creating the steps you are taking as a process that can be taught. Every aspect of the business should be viewed as a system. Every step taken should be a repeatable process for others to follow.
At first this will seem pointless. Why should you take the time to create a system for selling? Why not just let everyone fly and hope for the best? If it’s worked this far, it probably will continue to work, right? If the company is satisfied with its current level of success, this argument could be effectively made. But as it grows, the chances of continuing to find employees with the same skills and experience with the products and services are very slim.
Instead, find employees with potential. It’s your job to turn that potential into production. The best way to do this is to have a method that works so you can train it in the right steps to master the skills required.
Systems allow you to attract others while maintaining control over quality. You can then create overlay systems that oversee the team’s production. Strategic metrics and key performance indicators enable you to quickly identify problems and take action to fix them. Essentially, you create an operating system for the enterprise. Instead of everything relying on you, everything relies on the system. Any business that scales must be able to build these systems. Even with a great founder, the systems are a prerequisite for growth.
2. Make your systems flexible
Systems are necessary, but what about the big companies that are bogged down by bureaucracy? They tend to create rigid systems that have been created and enforced but are no longer optimal. A common refrain is that employees take the steps they take “because it’s always been done that way.”
Instead of taking a new look at a situation, they rely on outdated methods. There is too much bureaucracy to be flexible. This creates an outdated culture of blame and scapegoating instead of innovation and risk-taking.
When I was doing my MBA, one of my professors told us, “An exaggerated strength becomes a weakness.” This is what happens when the structure created from systems is overdone. It becomes rigid. While it can help you get out of startup mode, it hampers growth and will degrade the essence of the company.
Opt for flexible systems instead of rigid systems. There are a plethora of methods for creating flexible systems, and these allow the systems to flex when needed. Instead of a rigid step-by-step process, create one that has decision trees to allow for situational changes. It’s still a system. It still offers control – but it doesn’t hold the company back when agility is required.
Instead of creating a structure for each similar situation, create modular systems that can be customized to best cover the problem with an ideal solution. Then the pieces can be used interchangeably for a unique result every time.
To understand modular systems, think of building a house. The designer does not build a toilet or bathtub from scratch. They use formats that already exist, but swap them out to create something unique. Your business can have the building blocks available, but customize them as needed.
When you think of global customization, you will see many examples of flexible systems. Responsive websites adapt the experience to the device you are using. Streaming services offer suggestions based on your viewing history. When you log in, you will see different suggestions than when your neighbor logs in.
Flexible systems can present a challenge as they are an advanced systematization technique. But it’s worth it. Sometimes you can simply integrate a flexible process, e.g. B. Using Agile Project Management or a continuous improvement model. But if you need to build a flexible system, take the time to think creatively about it and make sure the customer experience is always paramount.
Related: Why Shouldn’t the Founder of a Startup Make All the Decisions?
3. Use core values to trump a rigid system
A very successful tactic is to create core values in the company that defy bureaucracy. This can become the heart of the business that drives it as well as the systems in place.
Create a propensity to act. When employees see a problem, are they taught to react? This may seem like common sense, but when the company culture is too strict or geared towards punishment rather than improvement, employees will sit back and offer solutions.
Make sure that sitting back is punished more than stepping in and trying to solve the problem. We want people to try to solve the problem. That might mean their attempt fails, but if we want them to be empowered to act, we should encourage risk-taking.
Creating core values that reflect the entrepreneurial mindset versus following bureaucratic rules will allow employees to feel empowered to act even when the system tries to constrain them. What are these core values? Do you prefer staff to always go out of their way to create a great member experience? This may mean that you see a unique situation that does not fit the current SOP.
Do you want your employees to be hungry to try new things? Would you like employees to uphold the founder’s belief that protecting the company’s strategic advantage or confidential customer list is paramount? Whatever it is, you can use core values to create an overarching mindset among employees.
4. Use training and leadership to foster an entrepreneurial mindset among employees
Once you’ve got the right systems in place, the flexibility to adjust those systems as needed, and established the core values to instill the right mindset in employees, you need to pull it off. This means that the training must include these aspects. From onboarding new employees to management development, these systems and core values must be recognized.
Leadership must set an example. If not, you will undermine your efforts. People are smart enough to tell the difference between written code and the message between the lines. When you say you want an entrepreneurial mindset, carry out the action taken. Promote the employees who match your ideas, not just the subject matter experts. If you want people to follow the systems in place, don’t give the office cowboy the corner office and largest team to manage. There must be consistency between the steps that leadership takes on a regular basis and the structure that is instilled in employees. If these are consistent, you can start creating the right environment for growth.
Related: Want to avoid mistakes? Leave rigidity behind and develop flexibility.
You have the opportunity to create a system that is both structured and flexible. You can create a corporate culture and still scale. Indeed, when you do so, you create a world-class company that can compete with the top competitors in your field and create an enduring organization to add value to the market for years to come.