4 Tips for Leading a Startup to Success

The success of young entrepreneurship has been on a steady decline over the past decade, as reported by the Kauffman Foundation. Often, entrepreneurs in their twenties catapult to CEO and founder status without proper training or guidance. Leadership is one of the most important skills needed to build a company, one that reaches success. It is learned from years in the workforce and absorbing inspiration and management styles from mentors.

Allowing personality to define a startup’s culture will help set it apart from others. For an entrepreneur looking to venture into the startup world, regardless of age, there are four things to remember when beginning a company:

Related: Define Your Own Success: A Q&A with Dr. Patti Fletcher

  1. Know where you’re going. Set actionable and attainable goals over a marked period of time. Create a detailed and realistic road map for your first year, and then your first three years. The last piece you ever want to change is your end goal, but you may change how you get there, which is why being able to pivot and remaining fluid as you move through milestones is very important to your success in the startup journey. The first key to identifying when to pivot is to understand what is working and what is not, so that you can look for alternative paths to get you to your intended goal. Sometimes methodologies and tactics you envision don’t always have the most thoughtful impact on your company, so flexibility is truly the key to hitting your end goals.
  2. Foster an open company culture. If you create a work environment where all employees feel important and included, everyone will enjoy their experience and contribute at their highest levels to the organization. You want employees to exhibit passion and strive toward the same goal. Being transparent is the best way to create this type of a culture. One of the ways we show transparency at MrOwl is through our company retreat and bi-weekly meetings where employees are encouraged to speak up. Employees at all levels of the organization have contributed valuable ideas. I like to share my thoughts on strategic direction for the company that in other places might not go past the executive team. Feedback I’ve received is that these meetings help the team understand our big picture goals, feel included and re-energizes them in continuing to work toward the same goals as the rest of the team.
  3. Ask the right questions to get the best hire. You’re looking for a diversity of thought, which requires that you hire smart people who may have varied backgrounds from yourself. When I interview candidates, my questions explore matters of logic and problem-solving skills. I almost never go into an interview with a list of questions or with a “check the box” mentality. Finding out what people are passionate about often indicates what kind of person the candidate is. For a startup, those joining the team should fit within the culture, and have a willingness to add to the company’s overall vision.
  4. Make a realistic and honest budget. Too frequently, startups fall into the trap of either under-budgeting or over-budgeting in their first year. This can create a strain on your employees and create conflicts in the information you present to future investors. Save yourself the headache and make a real budget and stick to it.

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The successful companies we read about every day had their beginnings as startups, whose founders followed similar steps in order to become great leaders. In the end, your company is your vision and it takes your entire team to be successful.

A book that has helped guide me along the way is “You Only Have to Be Right Once” by Randall Lane. Lane’s collection tells success stories of startup powerhouses like Facebook, Snapchat, WhatsApp and others. Knowing the narratives of successful companies can help give your business a boost when you feel like giving up. Remember that refusing to give up is what defines you and is what will make you successful.

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