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As your business grows, you will find that everything starts to get complex. What was once a simple task completed by you is now a labyrinth of steps completed by multiple teams. For many small business owners, this becomes a major challenge. Many entrepreneurs start their business with the idea that they can do it better than existing companies. This translates into the idea that “if you want it done right, do it yourself”.
While this helps the start-up australiabusinessblog.com to enter the market, it can hinder growth if there is not the opportunity to delegate the work. This is the great paradox of growth. How do you take advantage of the founder’s mindset without turning it into a disadvantage? Here are a few ways to avoid bureaucracy while scaling:
Related: When It’s Time to Grow, Sometimes You Have to Let Go
1. Build the systems
The first step to taking advantage of growth opportunities is learning how to systematize aspects of the business. Going out and selling to a new customer becomes more of a process and less of your own intuition.
You need to start making the steps you take as a process that can be learned. Every aspect of the business should be seen as a system. Every step taken should be a repeatable process that allows others to follow.
At first this will seem pointless. Why take the time to create a sales system? Why not just let everyone have their way and hope for the best? If it has worked thus far, it will probably continue to work, right? If the company is satisfied with the current level of success, this argument can be made effective. But as it grows, the chances of continuing to find employees with the same capabilities and experience with the products and services are very slim.
Instead, you will find employees with potential. Your job is to turn that potential into production. The best way to do that is to have a method that works so you can train them on the proper steps they need to take to master the skills needed.
Systems allow you to attract others while keeping quality in check. You can then create overlapping systems that monitor the team’s production. Strategic metrics and key performance indicators help you quickly identify issues and jump in to correct them. Essentially you are creating an operating system for the business. Instead of everything relying on you, everything relies on the system. Any company that scales needs to be able to build these systems. Even with a great founder, the systems are a prerequisite for growth.
2. Make your systems flexible
Systems are needed, but what about those big companies that get bogged down in bureaucracy? They tend to create rigid systems that have been created and enforced, but are no longer optimal. A common refrain is that employees take the steps they take, “because it’s always been that way.”
Instead of taking a fresh look at a situation, they rely on outdated methods. There is too much bureaucracy to be flexible. This creates a stale culture of finger pointing and scapegoating instead of innovation and risk taking.
When I was getting my MBA, one of my professors told us, “An exaggerated strength becomes a weakness.” This is what happens when the structure created from systems is exaggerated. It gets rigid. While it can help you get out of boot mode, it stunts growth and degrades the very essence of the business.
Instead of rigid systems, opt for flexible systems. There are a plethora of methods to create flexible systems, and these will allow the systems to bend when needed. Instead of a rigid step-by-step procedure, create one with decision trees to allow for changes based on the situation. It is and remains a system. It still provides control, but it doesn’t hold back the business when flexibility is required.
Instead of one structure for every comparable situation, create modular systems that can be custom built to best match the problem with an ideal solution. Then the pieces can be used interchangeably to create a unique result every time.
Think about building a house to understand modular systems. The designer does not make a toilet or bathtub from scratch. They use pre-existing formats but interchange them to create something unique. Your company may have the building blocks available, but modify them as needed.
If you think about the customization in the world, you see many examples of flexible systems. Responsive websites tailor the experience to the device you’re using. Streaming services offer suggestions based on your viewing history. When you log in, the suggestions shown are different than when your neighbor logs in.
Flexible systems can be challenging because they are an advanced systemization technique. But it’s worth it. Sometimes you can just build in a flexible process, such as using Agile Project Management or a continuous improvement model. But if you need to build a flexible system, take the time to think about it creatively and make sure the customer experience is always top-of-mind.
Related: Why Shouldn’t a Startup Founder Make All the Decisions?
3. Use core values to trump a rigid system
One tactic that has been very successful is to create core values in the company that transcend bureaucracy. This can become the heart of the business propelling it as much as the existing systems.
Create a preference for action. When employees see a problem, are they taught to respond? This may seem like common sense, but when the company culture is too strict or focuses on punishment over improvement, employees prefer to sit back and offer solutions.
Make sure that sitting back is punished more than jumping in and trying to fix the problem. We want people to try to solve the problem. That could mean their attempt will fail, but if we want them to have the power to act, we must encourage risk-taking.
By creating core values that reflect the entrepreneurial mindset rather than the bureaucratic rule follower, employees will feel empowered to act even when the system tries to limit them. What are those core values? Do you prefer employees to always do their best to create a great member experience? This may mean that you see a unique situation that does not fit the current SOP.
Do you want your employees to be hungry to try new things? Do you want employees to stick to the founder’s belief that protecting the company’s strategic advantage or confidential customer list is paramount? Whatever it is, you can use core values to create an overarching mindset among the workforce.
4. Use training and leadership to foster an entrepreneurial mindset among the workforce
Once you have the right systems in place, flexibility with those systems to adjust as needed, and the core values set to provide the right mindset among employees, you need to persevere. This means that the training must include these aspects. From the onboarding of new hires to management development, these systems and core values must be recognized.
Leadership should be an example of this. If not, you’re undermining your efforts. Humans are smart enough to tell the difference between written code and the message between the lines. If you say you want an entrepreneurial mindset, continue with the actions taken. Promote the employees who fit what you are looking for, not just the subject matter expert. If you want people to follow existing systems, don’t give the office cowboy the corner office and largest team to manage. There must be consistency between the steps leadership regularly takes and the structure taught to staff. If those are consistent, you can begin to create the right environment to grow.
Related: Want to Prevent Failure? Ditch stiffness and develop flexibility.
You are able to create a system that is both structured and flexible. You can create an entrepreneurial culture and still scale. Doing so will create a world-class company that can compete with the top competitors in your field and create a sustainable organization that can provide value to the market for years to come.