Some say that an institution can kill inspiration.
Not true. Institutions don’t kill anything; people do.
That said, every leader wants to grow their company; it is THE imperative of their strategic game plan and is the essence of sales.
The founder of a startup has a vision that they can only realize when a larger and larger market consumes their product or service. Their dream is to be a significant world player in their chosen market.
The organization to support the increasing demand grows; infrastructure increases along with the employee base.
What started out as a two-person crew with a pledge to solve a world problem and make a difference suddenly becomes a large machine with all the attendant challenges of complexity and bureaucracy.
Under such conditions, how does a leader preserve the inspiration that created the organization in the first place?
How do they prevent “the machine” from suffocating the small entrepreneurial engine that “thought they could”?
Take a look at yourself
You may have been successful at launching your startup; focussing your efforts on sales to create the momentum needed to gain traction in the market, but you may NOT have what it takes to lead the business through the stresses and strains of growth.
Let go of your ego and make the right call for the future of what you started. Find someone who can turn your brave idea into a crude deed.
Have friendly rules and policies
Create a rule and policy system that minimizes rigidity and restrictions and maximizes degrees of freedom for employees. You can’t inspire people that are bogged down in bureaucracy.
Don’t look to best practices for direction; this will only propagate what large organizations do – you don’t want to act large. You want to maintain the nimbleness of small.
Recruit small business people
Hire as many sales and marketing folks as you can from small business. You want practical thinkers and people who have a proven track record of getting stuff done.
Small business people are street smart in terms of cutting through the clutter to achieve their objectives and using a minimum amount of resource to do it. They are also incredibly valuable when it comes to designing internal systems that are clean, simple and efficient.
Focus on execution
Develop execution — not planning — as THE competitive advantage of your business.
It’s not the brilliance of your strategy that will set you apart from the competition; it’s what and how much relevant stuff you deliver to customers. Inspiration comes from action and achieving, not thinking about possibilities.
An organization that executes brilliantly can only do so if they are lean and mean with simplicity as a core value.
This will hold off the pressures to add unnecessary complexity to the business.
Stay close to your sales frontline
The fuel to think BIG but act small comes from the people who take care of customers day in and day out — your sales and service team. Inspiration is kept alive by architecting the organization to serve customers better and frontline people are the best source of knowing how to do it.
Keeping the inspiration alive requires an intimate understanding of how customers FEEL about the business through every touch point and every transaction.
As your business grows, set up a “frontline sales guidance” panel as the face of the customer to provide advice, insight, and direction to keep the customer in the driver’s seat of your business informing your growth activities.
Adopt servant leadership
People are inspired when they are connected to what the organization is trying to achieve; when there is a support system in place to help them do their job and deliver what is expected of them.
Servant leaders ask “How can I help?” often and everywhere and use the answers they get as the critical instrument to keep the organization fresh and vibrant rather than stale and rigid.
Inspiration can dominate an institution as the lifeblood of an organization but it requires a specific culture to keep it alive.
If words like inspire, feel, execute, small, fast, “do it”, frontline, simple, less and customers define the conversation in the organization, inspiration is winning the war.
If not, the institution’s got you.