Now is a fantastic time to start a business. The internet is full of information on how to get started, the marketplace is bristling with technology and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) can help you take care of every operational aspect. Interest rates are historically low, and you can borrow what you need, get funding from venture capitalists (VCs) and angel investors, and crowdfund the development of your app. All you need is a good idea, right? Wrong.
There’s a reason why so many startups fail, and so many well-trained millennials hop from job to job. The race to innovate creates an environment in which the idea, the brand and the marketing are a startup’s primary focus. Ideas are easy to come by in a world full of information and exemplary entrepreneurship, but a dedicated team of people you trust is much harder to find.
Angel investor Yun-Fang Juan won’t even invest in a startup if the team is outsourced. A close-knit, in-house team is a sign you’re able to retain top talent. But how do you do that?
You need to concentrate on your team’s needs in order to truly thrive. This is easier said than done with so many variables in the mix. Good strategy can help you maintain a solid team. This strategy is your foundation. It’s the solid rock your employees will lean on when uncertainty, the killer of solidarity, is a hurricane pounding at your startup’s door.
The pillars of great management
This is about truly recognizing employee talent. Appnovation is a startup that has achieved 654 percent growth over the last five years. The company has four talent pillars that have helped them see this kind of growth:
- Organization: position employees with an emphasis on their individual, unique talent
- Acquisition: prioritize communication when hiring, initiating and training employees—follow up with them one-on-one as much as possible
- Cultivation: provide plenty of educational opportunities and look for avenues that can really help employees blossom
- Retention: keep up positive feedback well into your employees’ tenure; prioritize transparency; include perks and rewards, establish clubs and company sports teams, encourage healthy lifestyle with fitness programs such as gym memberships and yoga
Focus on each pillar equally, as not doing so will create a lopsided structure, and follow through on this strategy consistently. You don’t want points at which employees compare experiences and someone says, “Hey, you got this and I didn’t.” Solicit feedback regularly, and give it regularly.
Make it loud and clear that you appreciate your employees’ ideas. In the startup world, ideas are a big deal and plenty of people have good ones. The more you ask your employees for ideas and the better you listen, the more your employees will understand this is a team effort. Focus on effort, and even if it’s the most basic kind of effort, honor it. Without effort there are no results.
Successful startups have flexibility hardwired into their backbone. Remember, your management strategy, rapport with employees and appreciation of talent must remain consistent. Your consistency is the bedrock that makes industry changes exhilarating, not intimidating.
- Scope of the change: how large, exactly, the change is, and any previous shifts to which it compares
- Impact of the change: how the transition will affect people both externally and internally, who will facilitate the change and who stands to see the greatest level of impact from it
- Roadblocks and speed bumps: potential difficulties and pain-points, no matter how small, will influence the outcome of the change
Absolutely every employee is a stakeholder, even if their role in your startup keeps them distant from the immediate repercussions of a change. This type of inclusion will equip you to turn roadblocks and speed bumps into points of triumph. Oftentimes, those not directly affected by change are more clear-headed. From them, you’re likely to get great ideas and great support and are more likely to overcome difficulties.
Be transparent and ask questions. Change isn’t coming from the top-down, it’s a holistic process. This creates buy-in and ownership from employees. Set up small brainstorming round-tables, and ask employees to take insights from them into larger meetings. When ideas are good, even if they’re risky, listen to them.
Implement change strategy that creates employee buy-in, monitor effects of change and repeat the process. Employees will be less likely to leave when change becomes a positive part of the culture.
Motivation and management
Each of your employees is unique, which can make individual motivation tough to pin down. According to research from Washington State University’s Carson School of Business, there are four factors that motivate all of us:
- Desire to acquire
- Desire to bond
- Desire to defend
- Desire to understand
Effective management thrives on the above factors, and communication is the thread that unites them. You communicate to acquire information and to be understood. Workplace bonding takes place through communication and shared activities. Communication imparts shared values, creating the buy-in that activates your desire to defend.
Simply put, we’re social beings. Are your employees on social media? Social media is a great tool you can use to meet them on their level. Are employees engaged with your brand? Employee engagement surveys are a good way to get input and to understand how employees feel about your brand. According to Market Force, engaged employees are your brand champions. High engagement levels link directly to customer loyalty and satisfaction.
One-on-one, face-to-face, verbal communication is a commodity these days. This is where real personalization comes into play. Prioritize it, and you’re a step ahead of bigger businesses. Take advantage of your small size and communicate on a level above your competitors.
Whatever method you use to communicate, make advanced communication the hallmark of your management strategy. Your team will be stronger because of it.