How to Scale Your Business So It Sells Like a Fortune 500, With The Culture And Agility of a Startup
Author: collin stewart
In the past, it was common for leaders to underestimate and undervalue the impact of an effective workplace culture, performance culture, mindset culture, and their impact on a company’s bottom line.
But, according to Claire Chandler (a recent guest on the Predictable Revenue podcast) leaders have started to come around to this idea more recently. They have learned that there are 2 paths to creating a company culture: you either proactively build, sustain, and protect your culture, or it is going to be formed organically from the bottom-up and top-down.
Claire has seen in her many years working with founders that the strongest impact on a company’s culture is the behavior of its leaders. Employees watch who gets promoted, what behavior gets rewarded and tolerated, and the level to which innovation, ideas, and input are valued and incorporated into company vision and strategy.
She has also discovered that culture is the strongest magnet you have as a company, in that it both attracts and repels. If, as a leader, you’re working on that magnet positively and intentionally, it serves to attract people who will serve that culture, and repel those who aren’t a good fit. Conversely, if you’ve allowed a toxic culture to develop, the same rules apply. You will attract additional toxic behavior and talent, and drive great performers out of your company.
MISSION, NOT MISSION STATEMENT
Your company’s mission is its core, fundamental purpose. It is the foundation for the right culture, people, processes, and best way forward. It’s not the flowery sentence that adorns your website or that you share with your shareholders – that’s your mission statement.
Any person in your organization at any level should be able to clearly see the connection between their role and the tasks they’re being asked to do and how it helps to move the needle towards that mission.
Example: Claire worked with a seasoned CEO in his last appointment before retirement. He came into a company that had just gone through a period of downsizing, layoffs, reform, and uncertainty. The remaining employees were riddled with survivor’s guilt and leaders were shell-shocked. The first thing this new CEO did was take 30 days to travel the country and speak with each one of the remaining employees and hear their experiences, pains, and concerns. After those 30 days, he decided the company mission would focus on 3 things: employees, customers, and efficiency. Every employee could relate to 1, if not all, of these pillars and see how their role contributed to it.
SCALING STARTUP CULTURE
Startup culture can be magical. Innovation is high, communication is as easy as sniping your CEO with a Nerf gun from across the office, and collaboration is valued and encouraged. How do you bottle it up and keep it with you as you scale?
Claire suggests picturing a Venn diagram.
Circle 1: PAST STATE. This is your company’s creation story, the things that led your founder or small group of leaders to start this company. What were some of the things that drove them? Why did they matter? Who were the early clients? What was unique about what you did? What can you leave behind that doesn’t serve you today?
Circle 2: PRESENT STATE. These are priorities you’re looking at today, this month, this quarter, and this year. What is fundamental about these priorities? Who are the current clients you love? What’s unique about them? Who are your star performers? What are the traits that make them great? What’s working well now, and why?
Circle 3: FUTURE STATE. This is the vision for where you want the company to go. What do you aspire to? Why is it so important to pull everyone in this direction? What are the skills, capabilities, and competencies that you’re going to need your people to have to get you there?
Overlap: MISSION. The sweet spot that emerges in the middle of these 3 circles will contain what you want to carry forward from your past, the best of what you want to carry for your present, and what you need to reach your future.
TAKING CULTURE REMOTE
The biggest thing that has changed this year for most companies isn’t so much who they are and what they’re doing, but how they’re getting their work done. This “how” will always evolve more than your “why” or your “who”. And productivity hasn’t actually taken a hit as so many of us thought it would.
In fact, generally speaking, productivity, morale, and collaboration have increased as working hours are more flexible, commutes have vanished, and we’re more intentional about the time we spend with our teams on video calls working through problems.
It’s important to see how we’ve adjusted and notice some of the things that we’ve stopped doing and have not missed. It’s equally important to recognize what we do miss. Connection has taken the biggest hit.
So what can you do to recreate the physical things your people used to do together? Check in with your people 1 on 1 and, as a leader, make an effort to prioritize and instigate the social things that your employees are truly missing.
THE SALESPERSON CULTURE-FIT
Salespeople are often hired because they have a track record of high-performance, not based on if they fit with the company culture. Really good salespeople are great at building, cultivating, and nurturing relationships with prospects/customers, but they don’t necessarily put the same amount of effort into doing the same with their coworkers.
Before you hire make sure you are crystal clear on that mission. Then, define the fundamental skills, behaviors, and competencies, and mindset needed to drive that mission forward. Look at the people you already have and see which fundamentals they embody and which they lack. Then look for someone to fill the gaps.
You need to be fully armed with what it is you’re looking for before you interview the first candidate. This might sound like a lot of work, but it’s better to do this due diligence upfront than to hire over and over again for the same role.
SCALING A FOUNDER
This, unfortunately, is impossible. And, fortunately, there is a lot about founders you don’t want to scale. According to Claire, many startups are managed by chaos. That’s because founders and entrepreneurs are, by nature, innovative and creative visionaries who, at the same time, tend to be horrible business managers.
They’re control freaks who don’t like being told what to do. Their heads are full of ideas and they get so excited about channeling their passion into building something new, but they often don’t have a roadmap. While it’s thrilling, at first, for employees to be able to skateboard down the hallway and play beer pong with their boss, eventually the top performers who can’t find steady footing will leave.
The key to founder growth is to learn what you can let go of. This comes with developing self-awareness that lets you see what you’re great at, and what you’re not so great at, and hiring to fill those gaps. Often founders have a knee-jerk reaction to the idea of structure, feeling that it’s too rigid, bureaucratic, and corporate, but your employees need guidance and boundaries, and, if you scale to a certain size, you need to think about compliance.
Revisit the Venn diagram method and decide what about your past way of running things needs to be held onto, and what needs to be let go in order to help you achieve your mission.
The ultimate fear in trying to grow your startup is losing all the elements that made it successful in the first place. But if you can’t find an effective way to shed what needs shedding, and keep what needs keeping, you’re never going to grow.
Claire Chandler, having worked with many diverse startups and corporations over the last 25 years, has experienced that most companies fall apart once they start to scale. As a solution to this, she created a revolutionary way to align your leaders and teams around a unifying vision that attracts, retains, and motivates the right talent to achieve your mission. And we had her on the show to talk about her strategy so we could teach you how to do it, too!
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