Q Most start-ups take seven to 10 years to become established. Once that happens, what should be one's greatest focus/concern?
FOUNDER AND CEO,
A Start-ups need to be flexible, adaptable and manage risk. They are run by small teams of people who share a common purpose. But as the start-up business matures -- more customers, more staff, more products -- the business becomes more difficult to manage. When it was small, everyone knew where the company was headed, who everyone was, and what everyone else was doing. But success brings growing pains.
It's ironic that what made the start-up successful is often the root of these growing pains. Communicating to a small team is easy, but more difficult with larger staffs and multiple teams. Start-ups have to be flexible and change quickly, but when too many changes are made, it can undermine a company's efficiency. In the early days, the entrepreneur monitored all expenditures and could keep everyone focused. But that may no longer be possible in a larger company.
As the business grows, your start-up has to grow up. Informal ways of doing business need to be replaced by more formal control systems. Organization structures need to be installed to help people know whom they report to and who is responsible for what. Formal financial and operational systems are needed to ensure customers are satisfied, money is spent wisely, and staff is rewarded for performing.
Then, even more challenging is doing that without losing the entrepreneurial attitude that made it successful. Good luck.
MARK SPRIGGS, CHAIR,
UNIVERSITY OF ST. THOMAS
OPUS COLLEGE OF BUSINESS