Startups are known for their scrappy can-do attitudes, creativity and innovation. They inspire and empower out-of-the-box thinking to bring an idea to life through a mission-driven culture. But even as you progress beyond the startup stage of your business, there’s value in maintaining a startup mentality to drive and sustain steady growth.
A startup mentality is exactly what propelled Goldfish Swim School, a family business that started in a basement, which has now grown to a multimillion-dollar premier swim school, operating out of a 16,000-square-foot office, boasting 92 franchise locations in the U.S. and Canada, teaching 135,000 students per week and employing over 2,500 people.
Too often, entrepreneurs think business operations will be smooth sailing after they survive the startup phase, when in reality, the going only gets tougher as you become an established business. By no means is starting a business an easy mission – it takes hard work, money, dedication and long nights, all while enduring ups and downs. But, once a company is off the ground, it’s essential for entrepreneurs to work even harder to keep it going each year.
Remain a visionary leader – it will become contagious
It’s your responsibility to articulate a clear and focused vision that is consistently communicated throughout the entire company. This message will bring light to the why behind the work, bring shared direction to all teams, and allow everyone to move fast and focus on what really matters.
Stay the course and don’t get distracted by the small stuff. By being open and honest, and over-communicating your company vision, you’ll help build a team-centric culture as you grow. This will result in a team that’s more invested in its work, understands the value of roles, has higher morale and feels empowered and committed to achieving the company vision.
Encourage questions and curiosity
A culture of question-asking will keep your company fresh. As you lead your business down a sustained path of excellence, encouraging curiosity will help reinvent, repurpose or challenge the status quo. It will bring to light ways to refine, simplify or enhance your business as your team is continuously looking for ways to improve products, services and find new solutions.
Curiosity fuels growth – and in order to compete in today’s saturated small business marketplace, you must understand the power in asking “Why?” and “What if?” This will lead to innovation, constant learning, new ways of thinking, and overall business progression. Ditch the status quo to focus on creating a business environment that asks disruptive, transformative questions in order to fuel the long-term success of your startup.
Create a collaborative work environment
Your workplace should reflect your company values, such as innovation, collaboration and flexibility (or whatever they may be). This can be achieved by employing an open-concept environment to encourage teamwork, upgrades in technology to foster innovation, fun ideation spaces to inspire creativity, unlimited PTO/remote work options to build a culture of accountability, etc.
One of the biggest benefits of a collaborative work environment is the opportunity and willingness to share cross-departmental knowledge. This type of teamwork can help further the free flow of ideas and get everyone working together to best support and achieve the same goal.
Build a team of intrapreneurs
These are team members who hold an entrepreneurial mindset and look for growth opportunities to not only enhance their careers, but the companies they work for. Give them freedom, responsibility and more projects to truly own. Reward intrapreneurs for a job well done by recognizing them in day-to-day behavior.
Intrapreneurship must be seen as something the organization truly places a value on. One of the biggest challenges you face as you expand the size of your operation is keeping your intrapreneurs committed, excited and motivated. Do what it takes to keep these dynamic team members by finding ways for them to grow within your company and use their entrepreneurial skills to best benefit the business.
As you start finding success, it is easy to fall into the trap of rapid, reckless growth, but remain true to your mission-driven culture by being selective in who you grow with, whether that be new employees, partners, investors, vendors, etc.
Hiring for cultural fit is just as important as hiring for certain technical skills. Take a look at how the candidate communicates, assess their personality, find out how they work, the types of people they enjoy working with, and how they react to certain scenarios. Treat any interview as an opportunity to see if they share your company’s values and if their personal goals align.