Keeping an entrepreneurial spirit

For many of our SME clients growth is a priority and with growth, new challenges surface. CEOs often ask … how can we maintain our entrepreneurial spirit, as we get bigger? It’s a concern shared by employees – the entrepreneurial spirit is what attracted many of them to join the organisation, when that goes, the compelling reason to stay starts to fade.

Brainstorming-1024x536What do we mean by entrepreneurial spirit? To us, it’s the connective tissue holding the organisation together … you feel the energy as you walk through the door, you see high levels of interaction between individuals and teams, shared goals and personal responsibility. Everyone has a voice – ideas flow. The mindset is focused on possibilities and opportunities; if something doesn’t work lets find out why, fix it and learn from it.

The tipping point is typically around 100 employees – to continue to grow the owners/senior team can no longer be as involved in day-to-day operations, maybe silos are beginning to form, communication cracks are appearing, it seems to be taking longer to make things happen and the clarity around goals and purpose are showing signs of blurring.

What to do?

Resist the temptation to immediately add rigour to the organisation – Take stock before introducing a more hierarchical structure or introducing more processes and procedures. Layers and rules often kill creativity and agility Instead, re-think roles – are you playing to everyone’s strengths? Is the structure supporting collaborative working? Maintaining autonomy to act is key – identify the roadblocks for decision-making, make responsibilities unambiguous and ensure the most appropriate individuals are making the decisions.

Keep the focus on innovation and keep talking – You may be too big to be considered a family or even a tribe but you can still retain your sense of community. Focus on collaboration, sharing ideas and shared learning. Encourage more cross function team working and lead with questions, not orders.

Communication does become more complex – the temptation is to start relying on electronic forms of communication to keep everyone informed or introducing more lengthy management meetings to get through the agenda – our advice, don’t do it! Instead keep meetings short and regular (preferably stand-ups), keep as much communication face-to-face or verbal (let email become the exception) and be creative in the ways you keep connected with the team.

Remember the ‘why’ – Feed the entrepreneurial mindset, by reminding individuals and teams ‘why’ the business exists. You want everyone on the same page, aligned on a common vision and hungry to succeed, and keep celebrating the successes along the way.

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