Evolving From a Startup to an Established Business by Jim Donatelli, St. Petersburg/Clearwater Market Executive for Regions Bank
The startup days can be hard at times with long hours, big accomplishments and major decisions. Eventually, though, your business will need to become a more mature entity. Here are three critical components to think about as you transition out of the startup phase. We find that these insights can often help companies avoid pitfalls that can accompany growth.
A startup’s dynamic atmosphere is unlike any other business environment. An intimate team works tirelessly together, feeling as if anything is possible. The highs are high, the lows are low, and the emotional rollercoaster is as intoxicating as it is draining. As your company scales, your office, or offices, will need to reflect stability, consistency, and experience—for the good of your employees and your customers. But, ideally, this next version of culture still reflects the spirit of those early days. Remember why you started your company in the first place. Sometimes businesses make the mistake of trying to be all things to all people as they grow. Stick to what you do best. Create realistic, achievable goals and remember your purpose.
Turnover is a natural part of business evolution. You want to ensure that, as your company grows, the culture that attracted strong talent to your organization continues to thrive, even if some of the people change over time. And remember, your company’s culture isn’t merely defined by how you see it as an owner or a manager. The culture is also defined by how your employees perceive it. With that in mind, consider setting up a culture committee that brings together employees with varying levels of experience. Listen to their insights. Be receptive to their feedback. Be intentional and diligent in maintaining the enthusiastic and rewarding culture of a startup, even as the company grows.
Talent is key to the success of any business, of any size. Bringing on experienced personnel from the beginning can help you navigate your growth more seamlessly. What they’ve seen in their previous roles, both good and bad, can help you avoid mistakes and focus on sustainable growth. As that growth happens, owners and managers often find it’s not easy to go from working with a small team to running a large one. Keep this in mind as hiring decisions are made. Don’t limit your view of people through the lens of their initial roles. Look ahead to how they can grow, and how their roles can evolve, as the company matures. In turn, you are essentially creating a team of trusted leaders who can help you guide your company longer-term. This also helps preserve that initial startup culture, and it strengthens employee engagement as people see how they can advance in their careers without having to leave.
As your business becomes more successful, you’ll be responsible for hitting larger financial targets. Your investors will expect more, as will your employees and customers. You’ll need streamlined processes in place to keep your business running. Hiring the right people will help, but don’t overlook the importance of the following:
- Accounting and financial processes that prioritize proper documentation and legal compliance while helping sales managers best understand and reach their target
- A communications process suitable for a larger team
- Technical infrastructure that supports your current needs, as well as a plan for supporting your growth goals
- Maintaining the customer experience and ensuring top-notch service
- Training and developing your team so they understand these new procedures
To effectively make a change, you need to prepare. Consider how the new process will affect your customer, business operations, cash flow, and your entire business before you implement the change. Keep in mind you don’t need to know everything about every topic. Turn to the resources around you for counsel, from your local banker to your CPA. Strive to create flexible processes that can scale with you, and try to find the right balance of structure—you don’t want to roll out too many processes and risk sacrificing your culture.
Ideally, you’ll introduce a degree of organization and sophistication without losing sight of the cultural elements that made your business unique – while staying focused on the mission and sense of purpose that have driven your business from day one.