MANILA, February 13, 2013 – The decision to start a company should not be taken lightly, assuming that the would-be entrepreneur is determined to succeed in the long run. Sacrifice and hard decisions will have to be made in order to keep the company afloat during the first few months, and even years.
It all starts with the company’s vision. It should be clear to everyone involved in the company, from the founders of the company down to the new hires. It is imperative that this vision is shared by everyone because it is the key element that for plotting the course the company will undertake no matter how hard that course may be (which it usually is).
From the outset, the company vision should be embedded in the core of the company’s products and values, and this starts with the owners. Business owners should believe in their company first before they can expect others to do so. The best way to demonstrate corporate vision is for owners and/or top executives and management to live and breathe the business they have created. They should give the impression to others that this company is not just some overnight start-up that will fold once thing go sour. Business owners should realize that the company that they are representing is their own, and they should conduct themselves in a manner that reflects how they would like individuals inside and outside the business to perceive the company, its employees, and its products.
Culture is also important to any organization. The company’s core ideas and values, which flow from its vision, should be manifested daily. The job of management is to infuse that culture into the conduct and work ethic of all people working in the organization. Closely allied with corporate vision, organizational culture should be the first priority of start up businesses when there are people already working in it.
New businesses should also be wary of what kind of culture will organically grow within the company once they’ve articulated vision, core ideas, and key values. Laying down the mission and vision of the company should be carefully thought of but it is not as hard as people think it is. The main challenge, especially for start-up companies, is how to nurture the kind of culture that is in sync with the vision the company’s founders have set up.
Imagine a company aiming to be one of the best in their industry, yet possessing a laid-back organizational culture that breeds unproductivity. That company will fail even before it takes flight. Aiming to be the best requires hard work, long hours and sacrifice: lots and lots of it. No matter how great your product nor how good your brand, if the people running the company cannot produce a stellar product on a daily basis, your company will fold up before it even starts. Just ask the Beatles.
It is hard for a new company to compete in the market if it fails to differentiate itself from its competition. The uniqueness of the company and its products flows through the core beliefs, values, and vision upon which it is built. Customers will see this in the way people associated with the company interacts with them. During personal interaction with a company’s employees, customers will see how the company dynamic works in everyday situations. A positive experience will give them the impression that this is company is an organization that is serious about its customers and is dedicated to excellence in everything that they do.
For an unusual example of how this kind of synergy works, take Zappos, the giant online retailer that’s now a part of the Amazon.com empire. They actually emphasize the importance of their company culture over the importance of quality customer service. This may initially seem counter-intuitive, because making customers happy leads to sales and revenue, which ultimately leads to profits. Sales and revenue are every company’s goal, no matter how much rhetoric about the importance of social consciousness in businesses you may have heard. The bottom line is: no sales, no revenue, no profit. And without revenue to operate a business, there are no customers left to provide customer service to.
But back to our point. The great thing about the Zappos business model is their company culture. Owner Tony Hsieh believed so much in working in a fun place that he actively instilled that kind of environment in his company, feeling that a company that employees seriously enjoy working for and believe in is a company that will inevitably produce great results.
Hsieh felt—and feels—that an organizational culture like the one he’s instilled at Zappos will make its customers feel the employee’s enthusiasm about their work, which, in turn, will make customers enthusiastic about doing business with Zappos. This leads to Hsieh’s next belief that “customer service shouldn’t be just a department. It should be the entire company.” The company’s mantra to make its customers happy with their customer service is perhaps best exemplified in the way Zappos goes to great lengths even to help them pick out products from Zappo’s competitors should that prove necessary to fulfill those customers’ needs.
The corporate vision has already been printed, framed, and hung in the wall where everybody will see it. The company’s new products and services appear to be competitive. And also, an efficient operational system capable of functioning smoothly. The only thing that needs to be fine tuned before your start-up business takes off is the selection and training of the initial employee-management team that you will share your success with.
The people that a new business owner will tap should either already share or be eager to share the same vision and goals that the company is striving to achieve. It is not enough that they are on the premises merely to help out in the company’s daily operations. The first few hires should know what they are getting in to when they come on board a startup company. Revenue is not yet a sure thing in the first months or even years, so these initial hires will need to realize from the outset that their personal growth within the organization will benefit the company and ultimately, themselves in the long run but perhaps not right away.
Appropriate employee skills are important. But more often than not, a small start-up company cannot afford to hire the best or most expert employees… yet. This should not be a hindrance to the company’s growth if the people that are a part of it will commit themselves in developing the needed knowledge and skills in order to do their jobs well. This commitment will only happen, however if they share the same goals that lie at the core of the company. Anything less than this will lead these initial key hires onto the path toward disgruntlement, not to mention the inability to perform their jobs in a manner that will eventually lead to the company’s success.
The majority of startups cannot offer competitive salaries or benefits, so they have to offer something else — a strong vision and story that people can really get behind. Early employees must believe in that vision and have the passion to follow it. “Early employees have to believe to their very core in the vision, even if that means sometimes challenging … the founders,” says Kristen Galliani, founder of meshin.com.
It is management’s job to thoroughly explain risks that new hires will have to face if they decide to pursue the job they are applying for in the new company. Explaining the risks should not also be sugar coated just to achieve a quick hire. The application process should also be transparent. Promising unrealistic goals within a short period of time will not help in forming a competent team that is willing to build a company.
New business owners that are serious about building and growing a company should treat it as they would treat their own child. If their livelihood will depend on it, they should nurture and care for the new company, building it around a strong vision and core values while weeding out those things that will hinder its growth. The journey can be daunting. But the rewards of eventual success are great.
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