As Your Plans Change, Keep Your Team Aligned

Entrepreneurs face unique challenges that leaders in larger, established organizations do not. One of the primary initial challenges is the design of the organization chart. It may be that on day one, every box on the chart has just one name in it. Entrepreneurs are often advised to make sure they hire others to do work that does not match their talents or status as the CEO of a business.

Ironically, in the early stages of a new start up business, the people you may want to hire to run operations, accounting, sales and service delivery and so on are all eager to work and help you grow your business. This is ironic because at the stage you need them urgently; you also have no money to pay them. You are left to struggle through the process of developing and launching a business with extremely limited resources.

Of course, if you are fortunate enough to attract substantial investment capital that can help you to attract people to perform the various functions and tasks, you have the opportunity to shift your focus a little. Why only a little and why not a complete shift so that others are doing their part while you do the ‘CEO stuff’? The reason is that your business will take many shapes and it will continue reform itself many times as your launch and learn how to operate in the marketplace.

Many of the assumptions you made as you wrote your long, detailed business plan – the one that encouraged the investors to participate – will change dramatically the minute you begin interacting with real customers. Believing that you can put your plan in place and stick to it as written for the next five years is a huge mistake.

This means that you, as the creator, founder, inventor, owner and CEO of the business, must stay rigorously focused on your vision and the promise you are making through that vision to your customers. At the same time, you need to be prepared to change and adapt to the realities of engaging with customers, channels and competitors. This is true for almost every corporation, regardless of size and history, but even more so for a small startup attempting to establish a new and unique position in the minds of its consumers.

Hiring other people to perform key functions will undoubtedly be the key to building a business that can support the growth you envision. Leading them through the necessary changes and adaptations that will be required to get you there is entirely up to you. It takes a special breed of person who can lead teams through what feels like chaos and it will take a special breed of team member that can readily adapt to the changes, as they are needed.

The key is to remain close to each job function so you can understand precisely how they function and you can see the business and your vision from their point of view. This is not delegating key roles and responsibilities and then walking away and still expecting that the right outcome. Establish an extremely frequent, bi-directional communication loop with each key player to keep everyone focused on the same vision, target, and desired outcome and to assure that required adjustments are made quickly and consistently.

Imagine a remote controlled airplane. The plane flies by itself, but through the controller you direct all of its movements. Between instructions you send by moving levers and dials, the plane is constantly communicating with the controller as it waits to receive the next instruction. If you fail to give it a new instruction, it will continue to fly in the last direction you supplied until it is out of range and out of fuel – and then it will crash. Your business can go the same way if you are not diligent about keeping all of the key stakeholders, internal and external, completely informed and aligned with your current goals and strategies.


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