How to Get Out of Start Up Mode

Most new enterprises are started due to the passion of an entrepreneur or founder.  S/he works long hours, does a little bit of everything (or more likely a lot of everything), and gets the enterprise to grow to a dozen or more employees.  Now they’re both stuck – the organization’s growth is limited by the leader’s personal abilities and availability.  It’s time to take the next step – professionalize and systematize so that the organization can continue to grow.

Entrepreneurs are frequently seat of the pants risk takers who abhor being pinned down to standard practices.  Standardization of any kind sounds like hell on earth!  The reality is that a lack of standard systems and procedures forces the entrepreneur to spend the vast majority of their time on the minutiae of the business.  Or the details are avoided and chaos reigns.  Professionalizing the business frees up the leader to focus on the big picture, visionary aspects of the business.

Here are some of the elements that might be implemented at this stage of the organization’s development (not a full list.)

  • Implement a simple business planning process that creates a road map  to follow,
  • Standardize business processes and implement best practices,
  • Create job descriptions and performance-based compensation,
  • Implement information technology for managing customer relations and operations,
  • Implement financial systems and software that provide high quality information.

The entrepreneur frequently does not have the mindset or skill set to professionalize the organization.  So what’s the solution?  There are several, depending on the organization’s needs and resources.  In increasing order of needs and resources:

  • Utilize existing staff to implement or manage projects.  This can work for smaller organizations when they have a person who has the skills to handle the specific project.
  • Hire consultants/contractors to implement specific projects.  This works when you have a specific important project.  There needs to be a point person within the organization has the knowledge of the organizations needs and can manage the assignment.
  • Hire an interim or part-time COO to manage project implementation.  A good solution if you have multiple projects requiring implementation, but do not yet have the resources to hire a full time COO.
  • Bring in an administrative partner or full time COO.  This works best for a growing enterprise with the financial resources.  Most organizations need a #2 person to handle operations and implement the organizations vision when they reach between 10 and 30 employees.