As an entrepreneur, you most likely spend most of your time thinking about the product/market fit and scaling the business. But for a startup to become a successful venture, you have to pay attention to the culture you build within your growing organization.
VCs and investors often claim that they invest in the founder(s) as much as they invest in the idea itself. Being a CEO and your own boss requires you to be versatile and wear countless hats. We cannot, however, become experts in everything. What will make you stand out as a good, trustworthy CEO is your willingness to continuously learn and adapt.
So what are some key skills should you strengthen to become the leader your business needs, nay, deserves?
1. People, People, People
This is often a less-discussed and often-dismissed aspect of starting your own business. If you speak to founders though, many will name ‘culture’ as their biggest concern. And it’s difficult to gauge when and how you should think about your company’s culture since it’s likely a small operation.
Your organisational chart will vary and update quickly and frequently, which makes it difficult to manage. But having the right people in the right positions interacting in the right way is needless to say could make or break your business.
Most entrepreneurs, unfortunately, are not very experienced in this area either. So don’t be ashamed or discouraged if this is not your strength yet.
To build an effective culture and also to boost your investors’ confidence in your ability to lead, you should consider becoming a certified HR specialist. It doesn’t have to be a masters degree but it will certainly make a statement if you attain a certificate in Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) courses to demonstrate your dedication and knowledge in people management.
2. Prioritise Marketing Early
Product / market fit is obviously the most important criteria if you want to start or grow your business. The top investors and VCs will look for startups who can demonstrate their understanding of the customers and commercial value of their products to target customers. If you are able to show that your idea can be monetised, that’s great but it’s not a requirement.
Many startups make the mistake of not thinking about marketing or sales earlier on and doing so could really differentiate your business and you as a leader. Establishing your brand identity early in the stage will also be instrumental in creating and driving effective teams with a sense of solidarity.
In addition, startups are all about testing assumptions and making intelligent mistakes to take the idea to the next level. A well-designed Marketing process will help you test your assumptions about your customers and what they value often and it’ll allow you to demonstrate to your internal and external stakeholders that you possess validated understanding of the needs and wants of your customer base.
3. Be Metric-Centric
Many entrepreneurs are passionate visionaries, dreamers. So they tend to be a bit of a scatter brain with a long list of idealistic goals and milestones. It is critical that you are disciplined in your goal setting not just for the quarterly or annual financial performance but even for your weekly internal team goals.
Start with your overall revenue, profitability, or growth metrics (that you show to your investors) and work your way down. Be vigilant about ensuring you have consistent and aligned internal and external, operational and financial metrics that you track against.
Developing a metric-driven culture is one of the core elements of success. It makes clear, common goals for your employees to work towards and seeing progress (their contribution) being measured and acknowledged generates energy. Not only that, it makes a statement to your investors regarding your ability to introduce transparency and discipline in running the organisation.
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