1. Begin with the Right Partners.
As your business grows and evolves, having the right partners in place is essential — and sharing the burden of leadership can fuel growth. Look to bring a co-founder or other co-leader on board who shares your passion, yet offers different perspectives and business/life experiences.
Support and inspiration are key as you start and scale, so you want your leadership team to be able to lift, motivate and stimulate each other.
2. Prioritize Creativity.
There is great value in being inventive, tinkering and building blindly as you grow your business. Renowned inventor Steven Mann is known to say, “Let’s just build something. It doesn’t matter what, let’s just build. When we do that, we’ll be able to see around the next corner.”
Looking at things from a creative perspective can open you up to happy accidents, new insights, and moments that can change the course of everything.
3. Choose Values Fit Over Culture Fit.
As you grow and need to build your team, hiring the right staff is critical to ensuring your passion and vision is carried through the company. While “culture” is a buzzword in the corporate world, it’s wise to choose a “values” fit over a “culture” fit.
With a culture fit, you will have a team that gets along, may read the same books, lead similar lifestyles and enjoy the same vacations. With a values fit, you get a team that is aligned to the way you want to do business, allowing you to create something special.
4. Always Be Ready to Raise.
As a leader, your job is to raise funds to ensure your business has enough runway to build and grow.
While you’re actively raising money, people are going to be judging you, scrutinizing your business, and evaluating your potential. When you’re not raising, however, you can have real conversations, talk about your business, and build relationships. This in fact may be the best time to raise.
While face-to-face coffee meetings are great relationship-builders, they are also a time-consuming process. Many founders suggest sending out investor updates by email as a way to keep people engaged and interested.
Other tips for raising include:
- Be discoverable — make it easy for people to find you.
- Publicly report on your progress — tell the world how you’re growing.
- Always keep your house in order.
- Make your investor deck and financial model a living document.
- Seek alignment with existing investors and shareholders.
- Build long-term relationships with prospective funders — start about six months out.
- Stay up to date on market dynamics.
- Signal the market when you’re close to officially raising.
5. Create White Space.
As a leader, you need to have one eye in a microscope and the other in a telescope to look at the big picture. Doing both is very hard to do, but it’s essential to make really good decisions.
So how can you pull off this dual role? Some founders suggest work-life balance is the secret. Adding white space in your schedule — a pause, a break, interests outside of work — gives you time to think and process information. What’s more, having things outside of work may make you a better leader.
Entrepreneurs often have an obsession with work, and white space is a concept difficult to grasp. For many, working 364 days a year, 100+ hours a week is not unusual, and lack of sleep is worn like a badge of honour. While sometimes it’s necessary, such a schedule is not productive. Founders have discovered incorporating more white space drives better sleep and broader perspective, making them better prepared to take on the problems of the day.
6. Make Corporate Responsibility a Priority.
Employees today are looking for more value and purpose. In fact, more and more people quit a job because they no longer feel aligned with the values of the company, and research has shown that 64 per cent of people won’t take a job unless the company is socially responsible.
By imbedding the concept of purpose into your core business practices, you can distinguish yourself in order to attract and retain the best talent. Plus, thinking about the community, your people, your customers and environment can lead to making the best decisions possible for your company. At the same time, you’ll be creating an amazing culture because of the genuine, authentic people who will believe in both your business and your core values.
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