After years working for the man, you’ve finally made the transition from being staff to needing staff — and are now ‘the man or ‘the woman’. Congratulations!But, even though you’ve worked extremely hard to get this far, the bad news is that the hard work has only just begun. Strong leadership takes more than opening the doors to your own business. It takes a commitment to creating the right culture from the outset, having plans for growth and empowering your team to do their jobs. Below we look at five strategies to help you make the switch from employee to employer, so that, when you do make it, it is a rewarding and positive one, for you and your team.
1. Think like a boss
Louis Lautman, business coach, is someone who works with new businesses the world over. He says that one of the most common mistakes he sees is new leaders continuing to do the same tasks they would as an employee rather than what he describes as ‘boss work.’ Boss work is the high-level strategic stuff, ‘to build systems and manage people.’ Many bosses can find it very difficult to delegate, but, as Thursday Bram of Hyper Modern Consulting suggests, ‘Most of us assume that, as the boss, we have to do everything. The reality is that we’re responsible for everything – but who actually does the work isn’t important.’
Another issue might be that you’ve not developed that skillset. Being a manager is about seeing how all the components fit together, and it may be tempting to revert to an area where you feel more comfortable, but, if you want to be a dynamic leader, you’ve got to realise that the skills which got you to this point won’t continue to cut it. You need to evolve.
2. Be clear about your offering
If you put in the right processes from the outset, your business has a much better chance of scaling seamlessly. Forbes argues that at the core of every successful growth strategy is a unique value proposition. They suggest that to present this you must know:
- Who your customer is
- What problem you can solve for them
- How you can solve the problem better than your competitors
- Where your customers look for information
‘The most important element for me in creating the business was that every single person in my group of companies understood that we have a single united purpose, the BHAG. That BHAG existed before Employment Hero did. Employment Hero is actually the result of the BHAG.’
3. Establish your values from the outset
A factor that goes hand-in-hand with a core purpose is a set of values that will help you realise it. When Loc8 founder David Hodges set out to create his business in 2011, he may not have been clear about how his business was going to grow but he was very clear on establishing a core set of values and growing a business with people who gelled with those values. As he told us recently, ‘From the get-go we strived to create an empathetic environment that fosters innovative service, a value that is largely driven by management. It’s very important to me that all my managers take an empathetic approach. We don’t run a hierarchal management group.’
By establishing your values from the start, you are creating a space that demands transparency, responsibility and accountability. Your values won’t just help you attract and retain staff; as David mentioned, they will help you to attract and retain the right staff.
4. Have a plan
If you want to ensure that your business can scale happily, you need to make sure that processes are in place from the outset. You need to:
- Assess what the potential streams of revenue are and what revenue models are the best fit for your business
- Anticipate the skills you are going to need to grow and hire accordingly (which may mean thinking about implementing training for current staff, or it could mean examining how you can bring those needed skills into the business.
- Establish whether you have the right technologies and systems in place for you to scale. For example, if you are a company that prides itself on successful remote working, can your current setup quickly adjust if you decide to expand? What expectations are there for employees working from home? Do you have a designated meeting day? And how would this change if you were to open offices in different time zones? Would the business falter?
- Ask: how might the offering change over time and what would that mean for the business?
It’s impossible to know the future, but having procedures in place can help you respond to opportunities and challenges nimbly.
5. Know you’re not alone
Being the captain of a ship can feel daunting, difficult and even lonely. But you need to keep in mind that no-one springs out of the earth as a fully-formed leader. Like other skillsets, great management involves learning and trial and error, and it’s an ongoing process. Seek out industry events, create relationships with other start-ups, and learn from the people you meet. Even podcasts and TED talks from those who have done it, can provide really useful advice. Some recommendations include:
- Daniel H. Pink - Office Hours
- Freakonomics Radio
- Stanford Innovation Lab
- Roselinde Torres - What it takes to be a great leader
- Derek Sivers - How to start a movement
We also have a TechByte series where we’ve been interviewing thought leaders in Australia about their trajectory in the tech space. And there’s of course the StartUp conference @ CeBIT 2017. Book your seat today!