Leadership Lesson: Too slow? Run everything like a startup

Published in the Phoenix Business Journal on March 9, 2018

Alarm. As we awaken with coffee, start our day, get into our office, we have an amazing opportunity. We can look at today as a continuation of yesterday – or we can do a daily startup. Like a startup business, what are the high priorities right now? Launch the day.

And, we can run our business, giant or small, as a startup. Lean, hungry, quick, striving, focused – utilizing all aspects of great leadership. Too big? Look at Amazon – lean, mean, and green. Too small? look at starburst startups like Zoom Video Communications. Founded 2011, 40 million participants and 65,000 organizational subscribers by 2015. Zoom.

Learning to see waste and systematically eliminate it has allowed lean companies such as Toyota to dominate entire industries. Lean thinking defines value as “providing benefit to the customer”; anything else is waste.Eric Ries, American businessman, author of “The Lean Startup” 

The startup mind 

So, what are the critical skills and behaviors of startup leaders that can be applied to running both larger and smaller businesses? 

·     Run lean – continuously eliminate all unnecessary resources; programs, processes, people.

·     Run fast – move swiftly in every area of the business with a bias toward action. 

·     Run differently – don’t copy competition; take the lead with unique products and markets.

·     Run creatively – innovate constantly with people, products, processes, services.

·     Run purposefully – define the outer reason for the business; do something good for humanity.

·     Run organized – always do the most important things first; re-prioritize every morning.

·     Run generously – be giving to employees, customers, others; develop lasting teams.

·     Run clearly – hold to a stated, communicated vision all along the way.

·     Run authentically – be completely honest with yourself and others; build trust.

·     Run deeply – dig into details and expect your teams to do the same.

·     Run broadly – understand markets, trends and (especially) what customers want.

·     Run welcoming – invite creative ideas from everyone for products and processes, and for solutions to problems.

·     Run together – invite outside companies and resources to collaborate.

·     Run optimally – every day, make the best possible use of resources; find the focal points for action.

·     Run flexibly – quickly pivot away from things that do not work, and toward those that can or do work; and allow failures.

·     Run communicatively – keep employees, customers, prospects, communities and others informed, honestly (don’t hide bad news.

·     Run positively – keeping an affirmative view helps the entire organization be buoyant, especially during challenging events.

·     Run gratefully – genuinely thank employees, customers, suppliers, others who deserve your appreciation.

Above all, run accurately. Speed matters, unless it makes a mess. So, run fast and stay between the lines of excellence. And clean up any messes.

Entrepreneurial culture

Build a value system that supports an entrepreneurial culture. In any size organization. In a large organization it is often called, “intrapreneurial.” 

And it is not just about hot tech products. It is about everything. The people, the processes, the products. In every segment of the business: marketing, sales, customer service, IT, engineering, production, administration. Everything.

Especially leadership.

The bottom lines

Lean. Fast. Flexible. Three of many entrepreneurial skills and behaviors. But not unique to startup companies. They are equally valuable in large companies. Amazon gets it. Kodak didn’t. Plant the culture of startup companies in any organization. It  begins with the leader, continues to sustainable success, and never ends. Ever.

Click here to read this article on the Phoenix Business Journal site.