More than six million new businesses launched in the U.S. in 2015, according to the Kauffman Index. Given that volume, it’s certain that some of these new businesses were rolled out by people who had never led a company before. Budding entrepreneurs devote considerable time to developing products and business plans, but they may not adequately prepare to become a boss.
That can be a serious problem since leadership competency is a critically important success factor, and not everyone is a natural at it. My co-founders and I discovered the challenges involved in running a company when we rolled out our startup a year ago. Here are a few tips we learned about being the boss:
1. Divide responsibilities. You and your cofounders are ultimately responsible for all decisions when you start your own company. There’s no one else who can resolve an impasse. That’s why it makes sense to divide operational areas up and assign ultimate authority of each to one person. We call them Direct Responsible Individuals (DRIs) at my company, and it’s a great way to make the responsibilities manageable. DRIs are in charge of listening to input from everyone and then making final decisions.
2. Become a jack-of-all-trades. At a large, well-established company, there are specialists to handle every task: HR people for personnel issues, travel experts to coordinate trips, etc. At a freshly minted startup, you won’t have that luxury, so you’ll have to learn to manage many different functions — and quickly. Along the way, you’ll pick up a wealth of knowledge and experience that can come in handy when you begin to expand your team; you’ll have firsthand knowledge of what each role requires.
3. Listen to customers. When you’re busy running a company and rolling out a new app, product or service, it can be easy to focus so intently on executing your business plan that you forget to hear what your customers are saying. As the boss, it’s your job to observe how customers use your product and, if necessary, adjust your strategy if you find that their usage doesn’t exactly match your expectations. Stay flexible and be prepared to tweak your approach to meet customer needs.
People who are launching a new startup have a lot to think about, including product development, fundraising and marketplace factors. These are undeniably important issues that are worthy of much consideration. But it’s also critical to prepare for your new role as the boss.
To make sure you give your startup the best chance for success, designate areas of operational responsibility, be prepared to handle a multitude of job functions and don’t forget to listen to your customers. When you keep these key success factors in mind, you’ll be ready to be the boss.
About the Author
Arvind Parthiban is the CEO & co-founder of Zarget, where in addition to conceptualising the company vision and piloting the course of action to meet their objectives, he currently heads product marketing, presales and sales operations. A former employee of Zoho where he headed the product marketing for ITSM suite of flagship products, Arvind gained valuable insights into the SaaS industry and all things ‘Marketing’. Arvind draws from his vast wealth of experience to power the business units forward.