Many startups aren’t fully tested until they hit the growth stage. This is when minor inefficiencies that crept in during the startup phase seem to escalate overnight, and planning for long-term growth is often put on the back burner as your team scrambles to meet daily demands.
Being a startup doesn’t mean you can avoid planning ahead, and taking time to prepare for 2014 will help your startup avoid some serious growing pains. Here are some of the most common inefficiencies to eliminate before they become major problems:
1. Not Preparing for Mid-Tier Management Roles.
As your startup grows, so does the need for mid-tier managers between employees and senior management. Leaders often put off hiring for these positions because mid-tier managers can be disruptive, and it takes time to integrate them. But the longer you leave the problem building, the worse it gets. Operations can very quickly get stretched or divided, and if a senior manager leaves, there’s no one left to fill the void.
Begin planning for mid-tier management roles as early as possible. Invest in training, and outline promotion opportunities for current employees who already understand the environment and are loyal to your senior managers. Identify where the needs are, and look to promote from within or hire individuals who share your startup’s philosophy.
My own company grew from 12 employees to 60 in the span of four years, and without a thorough training program, we would have been crushed. This program yielded some wonderful managers and kept employee retention high. Ninety percent of our management positions have been filled by internal promotions, which has helped maintain a consistent working environment.
2. Not Specializing.
As you move from the startup stage to the growth stage, it can be difficult to let go of some of the different hats you’ve been wearing. Yet as your company grows, the need for expertise in each area grows with it, and key figures shouldn’t be stretched across multiple roles.
Without focus, your growth can easily stagnate. If people won’t relinquish some responsibilities, you may have to think about replacing them with others who will. Identify where specialization is most important to your startup, and evolve as soon as you think it’s appropriate. Adding new employees with a particular passion and expertise ensures a good chance of positive growth in the months and years ahead.
3. Over-Delegating and Under-Delegating.
Managing a booming startup involves walking many different tightropes, and here’s another: finding the fine line between over-delegating and under-delegating. Over-delegate, and the quality of the work suffers; under-delegate, and you’ll quickly find team members burning out.
Don’t delegate tasks unless you’re certain people can handle the extra responsibility, and avoid the temptation to dish out new roles too quickly. Start with the less important jobs and build from there, making sure you carve out time to monitor each individual’s responsibilities. If you do see a problem growing, change the delegation structure to cope with it proactively.
Letting go of responsibilities is something I struggle with personally because I love having a hand in everything. Nevertheless, I realized this stifled the growth of my managers and employees as we expanded. The more I got out of the way, the more others took the lead, which brought more accountability, greater effort, and a better end product.
Don’t lose sight of the bigger picture as your startup grows. The key to spotting and eliminating these inefficiencies lies in monitoring your company’s progress and identifying potential issues early. Don’t just “make do” with what you have because that’s the way you’ve always done it. As a startup, you must adapt quickly to survive while keeping one eye on the horizon and planning for the future.
Tim Edwards is the CEO of NSR, a holding company that acquires underperforming or undervalued businesses, provides capital for fast-growing or high-potential startups, and creates holistic teams focused on strategy and execution in sales, operations, finance, and human resources. Tim is an entrepreneurial thought leader and an expert at acquiring, building, and turning around businesses. He can be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.