Management Lessons from an Entrepreneur
Becoming an innovative boss is one of the key features you don’t normally see in a business plan, but it is something you should be thinking about and planning for before you hire your first employee. It doesn’t stop there. As you grow and your business evolves, keep these thoughts in mind to keep your employees engaged, your business growing, and to create a positive company culture.
The list below is based on my personal experience as an entrepreneur over the last 22 years. I have been fortunate enough to bootstrap 19 startups in this time period, and have made my share of mistakes when it comes to being an innovative boss.
1. Change is Good
In a startup change comes with the territory and can help you innovate as long as you keep your employees involved. The key is to really allow your employees to be a part of the solution and help shape the plan for upcoming changes. You are the boss and understand that a startup business plan can change quickly, but your employees might not be comfortable with a lot of change unless they are involved and understand the benefits of each change.
2. Hire Right
Hiring great people and giving them responsibility is the first step. Don’t fall into the financial trap of hiring employees that are cheap. Hire qualified employees that fit into your company culture and will be able to thrive. We know this is your business and your money, but you need to pick people that are experienced and you can trust with vital projects. They may just surprise you with how creative they are and help your business grow with new ideas.
3. Keep One Hand on the Wheel
Now that you have hired your first great employee or a team of new staff members, take one hand off the wheel and let them produce. It doesn’t matter if you own a bakery or a software development company – micromanaging will slow your growth and lead to slower innovation.
Innovation starts with allowing your staff to make choices. You must allow this to happen, and celebrate the small victories and avoid overreacting to the failures. If your business is innovating you will have more failures then successes. When you don’t empower your employees, they will not put themselves out on a limb with new ideas, which leads to a lack of innovation.
One key to becoming a innovative start-up leader is to expose yourself and your team to constant learning. A thirst for knowledge is a key trait we look for when we hire new team members. We take this one step farther by having group and individual learning times scheduled for all of our staff members, and we meet regularly to discuss concepts in a think tank to spawn new ideas.
6. Workflow Collaboration
Promote and create an environment for an open workflow. If you hire the right team, and create a collaborative work environment where you trust your staff, they will thrive. If your employees feel like they have your trust and the freedom to innovate they will. We have created an “All Hands” session that is 4 hours each week where our entire staff (with the exception of me, the CEO) meet and collaborate. Throw in a free lunch and you will be pleasantly surprised with the results.
7. Embrace Failure
This is tough, and I know I have said this previously in this post, but you have to embrace failure for your employees. I saved this for last to drive home a point. Failure leads to success. Without allowing your team to fail. innovation is nowhere to be found in the future and your good employee’s will eventually leave.
Remember, employees quit people, not the company.
I have learned these lessons the hard way over the years and would love to hear your thoughts on how you have become, or are working on becoming, an innovative boss in the comments below.
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