3 Tips for Your Business That Don’t Revolve Around Time or Money
A serial entrepreneur and the founder of Steamhaus, Daniel Keighron-Foster shares his wealth of experience with is4profit
The thing I find most exhilarating about running a small, early-stage business is the blank canvas you can build on. It’s down to you and your initial team to make decisions on everything from the service offering itself to the cups you’ll have in the meeting room.
That’s what makes a small business so coherent in its values from day one. Companies with a longer history often look back and find they’ve changed somewhere along the way – as they make way for new faces, new ideas and a natural evolution.
There is a school of thought that puts revenue and growth before everything else when it comes to running a business and I think that’s where they’re going wrong. Because whatever the size or stage of the company, anyone who has run a business before knows it lives or dies on its people.
I’m six months into my second tech venture, having sold my first company in 2012. Here’s what I’ve learnt along the way about what makes a beautiful small business.
Get the team right
‘Hire the right people’ seems like obvious advice but we’ve all made the mistake of panic hires, particularly when you’ve set yourself tough targets.
Getting the right team in place means assembling a bunch of people who really understand what it means to be part of a smaller company – people that are chomping at the bit to take on responsibility and understand that they’re all in it together if the company’s going to succeed.
Not everyone wants this kind of pressure but the ones that do will put the hard graft in that’s required. Just make sure you reward them handsomely for that. They’re taking a risk by working for you so don’t be afraid to give away equity to earn loyalty in return.
Any new recruit also needs to buy into your culture – you can usually see whether this will be the case within the first week. Make use of the probationary period and make sure you listen to your team. With people working so closely together it’s hugely demotivating and debilitating to have a mis-match in the team.
Get the environment right
When I launched my first tech company back in 2010 things looked very different. Talent was relatively abundant and if you could provide bean bags and a ‘wacky’ break-out area you were considered a desirable place to work. Fast forward to 2016 and employees’ expectations have matured alongside the IT industry itself.
You’re going to have to work harder to lure the talent now. That’s why creating the right working environment is so important. ‘Google’ style offices made a thing out of work being ‘fun’. But there have been so many tragic imitations of this concept that it’s all become a bit naff. While it did champion a more employee-led culture, employees are looking for a more sophisticated approach to work.
I’m a big fan of interior design that reflects the ethos of the company. We have worked incredibly hard at making our offices a beautiful place to be and staff genuinely love showing them off. Little things like the time we spent choosing the chairs and the bespoke desks we’ve had made all make a difference. After all, you’re expecting people to sit at those desks for a considerable chunk of their day! Every decision we’ve made about the office has had the team at the heart of it – creating a space where they want to be and driving productivity as a result.
The biggest challenge for the entrepreneur – and if anyone else has thoughts on this I’d love to hear them! But what I have learnt is that you’ve got to inspire people, not micromanage them. Doing that just puts them under more pressure and makes it difficult for them to do what you’ve brought them on board for. Stick to what you’re best at and let the people you’ve hired shine.
Being realistic it’s impossible not to be involved in everything in those early days. But the sooner you can get structure and role responsibilities in place, the more productive you will become. The ultimate aim is that the company isn’t completely reliant on you.
Of course we all want our small businesses to make money and thrive. But it doesn’t happen overnight and it never happens unless you’ve laid the foundations by giving great people the time, space and encouragement they need to make it work.
Daniel Keighron-Foster is the managing director of Steamhaus.