Business Magazine

6 Key Actions to Keep Your Startup From Thrashing

Posted on the 19 April 2012 by Martin Zwilling @StartupPro

businessman-inefficientSuccessful startups are all about turning ideas into action quickly and efficiently. These actions must be the hard part, since entrepreneurs always seem to come to me with ideas, and ask me for help on the actions. That has always seemed strange to me, since the magic is supposed to be in the ideas, and the actions are the same for every business.

In fact, the actions required to start and run a business are well documented, the subject of many books, and taught in college courses across the land. As confirmed by John Spence in his book on this subject, Awesomely Simple, turning business ideas into action consists of six essential strategies:

  1. Build a vivid vision. Having a clear, vivid, and compelling vision in your head is without question an essential component in building a successful company. But that’s not good enough. The vision has to be documented and communicated in a way that makes it vivid to every member of your team, your customers, and your investors.

  2. Team with the best people. The best people are highly talented and motivated individuals who are also masters of collaboration. The future of your startup is directly tied to the quality of talent you can attract and keep. You must create a winning culture that people love.

  3. Practice robust communication. Open, honest, frank, and courageous communication, both inside and outside the organization, is critical. The key skills can be learned, and include deep listening, logic versus emotion, and reading body language. According to Spence, this is the biggest problem he has to deal with in client organizations worldwide.

  4. Cultivate a sense of urgency. Get things done. A fast, agile, adaptable organization makes the important things happen now. Urgency is allergic to bureaucracy. Reward fast action. You set the model for your startup. You become what you focus on and become like the people you spend time with.

  5. Enforce disciplined execution. Build a performance-oriented culture that demands quality in every operation, encourages continuous innovation, and refuses to tolerate mediocrity. Most organizations execute only 10 to 15 percent of their major goals. Do a periodic effectiveness audit to check your operation. Then fix it.

  6. Show extreme customer focus. Put feedback mechanisms in place to know that you are consistently delivering what customers truly value. Attitude and listening are the keys. Superior customer focus can drive as much as an 85 to 104 percent increase in your profitability.

It should be pretty easy to see the interdependence and synergy among the six principles, each building on the next, all the various elements working together to create a highly successful business. But you don’t have to go out and address all six principles right now. Pick one that will create leverage immediately, and begin with it.

Spence defines three simple watchwords that will lead to business excellence – focus, discipline, and action. If you are missing any of these, the outcome will most certainly be mediocre. Once you start accepting mediocrity, you become a magnet for mediocrity.


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