After meeting with a number of entrepreneurs I recently seed funded, it was clear to me that one of the major challenges founders face is how to continue to scale their management style. My preferred seed investment is in an engineering driven/product focused team who can code and get product out the door under the release early and release often model. I often find that these types of entrepreneurs get quite a lot done with few resources and really have a strong pulse on the customer and market. However the unfortunate aspect for these technical/product founders is that as their product becomes more successful, they often spend less time on doing the things they love – creating great product and iterating. Many founders will find that they have to spend more time meeting with investors to raise money and dealing with internal employee issues. In addition, many founders will find that once they raise capital and hire more people, that their one room, one whiteboard open management style is hard to scale. So the question is how to get everyone on the same page? How do you continue to be open and yet layer a simple process to create a shared vision and accountability? Given that, I am bringing back an old post from 2007 on scaling your management style. I want to be very clear though – do not be a slave to process and keep this simple. At the same time, I hope some of these suggestions help:
What makes a startup team great early on in terms of getting product out the door and rapidly refining and honing the product from live market feedback can also lead to issues down the road if companies and employees are managed on a similar basis. What is easy to roll out in a 5 person company gets harder to manage in a 25 person and even harder in a 50 person company. Take the test – ask your key executives what the 3 key company goals are for the month? Are they the same or not? How will they help contribute in each of their functions to delivering on the 3 key company goals? If they are not on the same page and you have trouble getting them together, you may want to continue reading for some thoughts on how to improve communication and accountability.
Here are some simple steps you can take to create a more fluid organization. First, institute a weekly management meeting. Yes, like you, I have an allergic reaction to the word meeting, but believe it or not, simple processes can help tremendously. It is a great way for the CEO to get input but also guide the team to focus on the same company goals for the month or quarter. Secondly, have key team members provide a weekly dashboard report and list of key goals to accomplish for the following week. At every weekly management meeting, have each team member discuss progress against his/her team’s goals and what they will be working on for the following week. How does each of the departmental goals contribute to helping the company meet its goals? Once again, this all may seem simplistic and a giant waste of time versus managing the next product release, but you will be amazed at the number of companies I meet that have not gotten to this point and consequently seem to have different ideas of what the business is and how to get there. In addition, having weekly management meetings and clear weekly goals with simple yes/no criteria goes a long way towards creating an action-oriented culture of getting results. If a VP doesn’t deliver consistently, all of the other executives know and they also know it is time to make a change. No one wants to be the manager that is known to overpromise and not deliver. There is also a real difference between a manager having weekly individual meetings with their CEO vs. openly discussing theirr priorities and completed tasks with their peers. With respect to cross functional communication, rather than complaining about engineering, for example, sales and marketing can now understand engineering priorities and what it may take to adjust and rearrange some of them to meet the revenue targets for the quarter. Trust me, there are many more factors to a company’s success and failure, but please don’t make an allergic reaction to scheduled meetings and a simple lack of organization your cause for execution problems.
In fact, we can skip the word weekly report, and instead just say lay out the 3 things you were supposed to do this week and where you stand on them. One other important point to note is that make sure that everyone on your team understands if they hit a roadblock on any of their goals to come to you immediately to tell you what the roadblock is, a couple ways to potentially resolve the issues, and then to discuss with you. Clearly this is a methodology that can scale as you grow your team and business. Good luck and remember to keep it simple.