What your founder wants you to know
Much has been said about entrepreneurs. But not so much about people who work with them.
It must be crazy to work founders. Sometimes they want this. Then that. Sometimes they say this. And then they do completely something else.
If it’s so insane then why even bother working with entrepreneurs.
May be because on the other side are big organizations where life could be bureaucratic, lacking in autonomy, unexciting (sometimes boring), and political. Plus some say with a constant feeling of emptiness.
Well you have to pick your side. But if for whatever reason you are called on the side of founders, here are a few helpful hints. To not only survive but thrive.
#1: If you want to grow, forget about your growth. Focus on the mother ship
Recently someone working for a founder cried hoarse. I want to have a conversation with him to change my role - I’ve been doing this for two years. Even as he was saying this, I was smiling. Why? Because even if his role changes now, it won’t matter so much.
There will many changes during the year that the company will be forced to respond with ammunition the company has. Your founder will always tend to work with people who can mould themselves to meet changing demands.
If you feel stuck with limited responsibilities, it means that you aren’t adapting to the needs soon enough. Think of it like whitewater rafting. You’ll enjoy it if you go with the flow. Fast or slow with the river. Without being rigid about which side of the raft you want to sit.
#2: Make your own decisions. When you fail, apologize and move forward
One of the biggest problems people face in organizations is making decisions where money is involved. Especially if there’s risk of losing money. Often founders make decisions with very little information. Just like you, they don’t know whether a certain project will really work or not. Yes, they may have deeper perspective but it still won’t matter when risks surface.
Founders respect people who can make decisions and own up to them. People who take action. May be you won’t be rewarded for failure always. But you’ll eventually fail because of inaction, which in a way is a poor decision too (“no decision”).
#3: Learn to deal with risks by constantly reducing them
It’s a lesser known fact that entrepreneurs reduce more risks than taking them. They worry about losing clients. About losing key people. Or unexpected taxes. Or legal problems. Or investors. They are constantly alert to dodging the next bullet from the woods. That’s why they reduce risks. Always looking for new opportunities to grow, to expand or to counter-balance.
To thrive with founders, find new growth opportunities for the business. If not new clients, then new ways to sell to the same clients. New services. New products. New hires. People often fear that their ideas may be shot down and they’ll appear stupid. Your ideas may not always fly. But they will surely position you as the go-to person for growth.
#4: Speak your truth. And do it often
The entrepreneurial journey with its ups and downs usually inflates egos of founders who’ve made it on their own. They are constantly making decisions that drives the business forward. So often people working with them assume that they are making the right decisions. They hesitate to tell them that they could be wrong. Or, that they should be thinking differently.
Find a way to say that. To speak your mind. Use data or whatever. Nothing can hurt your organization more than not telling the founder that he’s wearing no clothes.
#5: Move forward. And move forward quickly
In Nature, a thousand flowers bloom to seed a single tree. The entrepreneurial journey is similar. Your company (and therefore your founder) may try many different things and a few of those would work. Would grow the business. Many would fail or morph into completely something else.
This required a mindset of moving forward quickly. Of not brooding over the past. Of not whining or complaining. But instead finding the bright spot in the dark. Of being able to say, “yes, let’s do that.”
Develop such a mindset. And you’ll cruise through your journey.
You’ll realize sooner or later that an entrepreneurial environment shapes you differently. You grow up learning more about yourself. You’ll discover capabilities that you never knew you had. And when it’s your turn to build and grow something from nothing, you’ll be ready.
This article was originally published in The Economic Times.