How to lead your startup through its teething troubles

How to lead your startup through its teething troubles

Will your business make it through the startup stage? Maybe, or maybe not – the survival rate is low with a large majority ending up failing to get off the ground. Startups tend to run across challenges typically faced by growing businesses, from getting the right people to grow their teams to finding financing that allows them to scale up.

Navigating these teething troubles is like steering a ship through wavy seas, and this demands effective leadership that will keep things from going belly up. 

Teething troubles

Every startup has to go through what we might call teething troubles. This is an early and critical stage of the startup’s development, characterised by high growth potential and rapid iteration development to solidify ideas, target the right audience and perfect the business’s revenue-generation model. 

However, this is also a high-risk stage, as this is when startups struggle with growing pains that typically arise from limited resources, unclear product concepts and market fit, and workforce shortage. In fact, according to Startup Genome, only one in ten startups succeed, and it’s safe to assume that most of the 90% that failed never made it out of the teething stage. 

Leading your startup through teething to growth

Steering a startup through the early days is like driving a car through a crowded highway at full speed. In other words, navigating is difficult, and leaders need the following qualities to succeed:

  • Adaptability and agility in decision-making. Startup leaders need to be quick on their feet if they’re going to help their business make it through the teething stage. Indecision will only waste time and precious capital, while rapid ideation and experimentation has a higher chance of paying off.
  • Ability to attract and retain top talent. A teething startup needs a leader that attracts people with strong talent profiles. Their skills and experience are invaluable at helping entrepreneurs steer their startups in the right direction, create much-needed solutions, and solve problems fast.
  • Disposition for building a strong company culture. An entrepreneur leading their startup in its early stages needs to be able to clearly define, enact and enforce core values that serve as their company’s foundation. This should foster agility and adaptability among their team, all while providing motivation and encouraging innovation.
  • Keenness for experimentation. As rapid iteration is the name of the game during the teething stage, startup leaders need to quickly come up with ideas and measurable experiments aimed to help their business grow. They should also have the heart to see failures as opportunities to learn and try different things. 

Actionable steps for startup leaders

There is no doubt that getting through the teething stage is a difficult endeavour, and entrepreneurs need to have a plan to help their startup survive its growing pains. This plan should address the following questions:

  • How will you structure your organisation for growth? Determine the organisational structure that you’re comfortable with. After all, not everyone is keen on working in an anarchic environment and may want to quickly transition to a more well-ordered company hierarchy.
  • How will you develop your leadership capabilities? Understand the skills that you need to learn in order to better guide your startup toward success. Upskilling may be necessary in this case.
  • How will you build your team? Know the people you need in your team and have a comprehensive strategy to get them onboard and retain them in the long run.
  • How will you foster a growth culture? Set the pace for your business’s growth, all while emphasising the values needed to help your team develop a mindset that lets them achieve your startup’s objectives.

About Sam P

EnterpriseZone Staff Writer

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