Is your business stuck in start-up mode, unable to get past that initial growth phase you experienced in the very beginning? You know, that feeling like something is just stuck and not matter how hard you work or what you try you can’t seem to get to what you just know is possible? It’s not an uncommon problem for small to medium sized companies (SMEs) to find that what served them in the early stages now hinders them as they enter a growth stage.

Businesses get stuck in start-up mode when the Founders or CEO neglect to take the correct growth steps to forward the business beyond that 3 to 5 year mark. Because of their initial success, where their mindset and actions were rewarded with results, they just keep doing more of that and hoping for even better results. Only now, they find themselves struggling to keep up with their own growth, creating their own version of chaos.

Companies that are stuck in start-up mode have very little process, vague or no accountability, and ill-defined roles and responsibilities. Basically, they lack any clear vision and plan going forward, and these businesses are more about surviving the day-to-day challenges than implementing any sort of strategy.

It’s easy to see how this happens with entrepreneurial businesses. In the early days, the business consisted of a handful of people who had to wear a whole bunch of different hats, but who maybe had no specific skills for their role. What they did have going for them was a solid network and a passion to creating something.

The #1 goal of the business was to survive those initial stages long enough to be able to grow and maybe if they are lucky, make enough money to pay the founders a salary that resembles what they would make as an employee. The attitude is one of being happy to just BE in business.

The problem is that in the long-term, the chaos system that got you through the initial stages is insufficient to handle the growth you are experiencing now. There is a whole lot of activity, but not necessarily an equal amount of productivity and not in a particular, focused direction.

With this ‘fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants’ business model, you risk alienating the good people you need to continue to grow the business, along with your reputation with customers, suppliers and other business partnerships. It is also very difficult to attract new people to the business when you can hardly keep up with your day-to-day tasks (like never returning phone calls or e-mails!).

How to Get Your Business Out of Start-Up Mode

  1. Define Clear Roles and Responsibilities – Have all employees write down what they currently do and are responsible for. It doesn’t mean that things are going to stay that way, but it’s the starting point for the long-term planning you need to do to see what skill sets are required and who is the best fit for each role. This is the start of forming the team you need for the present, AND the future.

  2. Get a Clear Business Vision – Know exactly where you want to go with the business. If you have partners or other key stakeholders, sit down with them and come up with that vision together as you may not all want to go in the same direction. Alignment is key, and so is aiming high! If you already know how you are going to get there, you haven’t gone far enough.

  3. Develop Your Core Strategies – Figure out how you are going to bridge the gap between where you are now and where you would like to be. What concrete steps do you need to take to get there? What needs to change about how the business operates today? Theses strategies may be short term and others may take longer.

  4. Create Tangible and Measurable Goals – Take the core strategies and break them down into tangible action steps. The key is to hold people accountable to those goals on a daily and weekly basis, and take time to quantify the results.

  5. Develop a Communication Protocol – Shift away from the communication by proximity strategy to a clearly defined internal communication protocol. That means having regular meetings/huddles, sending internal memos, and defining regular update intervals instead of working on assumption. Check out this quick video on how to run an award winning team huddle in just 7 minutes!!

Staying stuck in start-up mode will hinder your company’s long-term growth potential. What is worse is because you have experienced some growth, it will now take you twice the effort to get the same results. Once you do make that shift, you will start seeing the real results, experiencing the real growth that you have worked so hard for!

Need help shifting your business out of start-up mode? Give me a call to schedule your growth readiness assessment session!