Author: Jean-Paul Damen
Picture: Nick Youngson, rights CC
Before breaking down strategy & leadership, to my opinion CEO’s must have a clear vision and mission. The vision is about a preferred future. Where will you be in 1, 3 or 5 years? Why don’t we re-invent our products and bring a service which solves a lot of practical issues the industry brings for customers. The mission tells us what we’re doing today and how we have to travel to the place where we want to be in the future.
At the heart of disruptive growth is this company's mission. Smart business owners use a written mission statement to remind their teams why their company exists because this is what makes the company successful. The mission statement serves as a “North Star” that keeps everyone clear on the direction of the organization. It will guide every choice that is made, both strategic and tactical while you scale-up. It must be clearly understood and stated explicitly as it is one of your compasses. Especially in times of stress and when hard decisions need to be made.
Here are few reasons why strategy and leadership play an important part of any scale-up.
A good strategy is an ongoing description of how to achieve growth and secure profit and minimize risk. Strategy is about making choices. What products, services and markets will be a part of the value proposition and which aren’t. How to overcome competitors reactions, optimize processes and introduce products well timed and planned. These types of strategic decisions are critical to ensuring that limited resources are being deployed during the one and only chance you will get. Of course you need to know what your strengths and weaknesses are.
Strategy must be planned and accepted by the team. Creating and tracking progress against an annual operating plan is an essential management tool for any company. The execution of the work in today’s companies must be done agile in sprints in cooperation with all disciplines in order to be clear about service readiness and sales readiness. First time right is another need-to-adopt principle that scale-ups must embed in their operations, fast growing companies will burn money but not for try and error. As a CEO you must have a clear outline of capabilities you will need to achieve your goals. Defining a growth strategy with your team contributes to a higher level of awareness and drives decisions in organizational design.
Being a leader means setting the course, milestones and goals. With a clear mission statement your team will all be on the same page when it comes to what you do, decide and why you do it, which leads to better understanding. This saves you a lot of valuable time. A better understanding while changing is more than nice to have, it will contribute a lot since your team is more willing to accept the change, see the value of it and helping the company to accomplish the goals.
At a scale-up appointed leaders have to play a different role too then you probably did while in the rat race to come at this position. As a leader keeping enthusiasm up as the company grows is difficult, especially as the direct link between founders and employees becomes less tangible or are shifting. Many scale-ups are asking a lot from employees, the methods for leading and motivating staff that they used in the startup phase may no longer work.
In a scale-up everything acts more machine based than in a start-up, people have to step up to improve working methods, quality and speed of delivery. To scale successfully, you need all employees onboard and change their mindset from startup to scale-up. Often you need to re-align people, positions and patterns from the past. Shifting from purely directive goal setting to a reciprocal process where both company and employee benefit. When people feel that business goals are tied directly to their development, they are much more likely to go the extra mile. So in practice, leaders must lead the way, set the pace and make sure the team is empowered, cooperating and well coached.
Lets discuss off-side how to scale-up or how to grow your company.