Is your startup ready for a change?
Change is not only an issue for large companies. Companies of all sizes go through necessary changes which are required to adapt to new market realities. At every company, the biggest issue with change is getting employees to accept change.
“We have always done it this way. Why change now?”
All of us have heard this from people we have worked with. The challenges of change are an issue in companies of all sizes, yet when change is needed at startups and SMEs, the challenges are different than in larger companies. These smaller companies need to become more ‘professional’ in nature while keeping a startup mind set.
Change is inevitable, especially if they want to move forward and continue to grow and achieve success. As these smaller companies grow, the CEO can no longer handle marketing, sales and the human resources portfolios. The techie is not an accountant and is not interested in dealing with compliance issues.
Focusing on an employee who is always late can be a waste of time. It is not the best use of a leader’s time to follow up on calling immigration to find out how to fill out the temporary work permit dossier in order to bring on board that amazing developer that they has that specific expertise and cannot be found anywhere in Canada. Neither is spending the time going through the payroll register history to figure out if that employee is still really entitled to 5 or 7 days of vacation. No doubt, procedures, processes and regulations are important to be documented and implemented. CEOs fear that becoming more ‘professional’ will lead to the company losing its startup spirit. CEOs wonder if they will still be allowed to chat with their staff, have a beer after work or play board games after hours with their employees. They tell me that they are concerned that by telling their staff that going forward every employee should be at the office at 9 sharp, they will start looking for a new employment home.
While this can be a big challenge to growing smaller companies, it is possible. Change can happen and corporate culture can remain strong. To do so, three ingredients are mandatory.
First, the CEO needs to admit that change is necessary. While the need for change and professionalism may seem obvious, CEOs are often reluctant to change. Initiating the change means that, they will have to lead by example, remove themselves from certain tasks and avoid micromanaging. They will need to learn how to let go and accept the constructive criticism.
The second ingredient for a recipe for positive change is communication. CEOs should choose which changes are necessary, and bring aboard their staff in the process. Rather than forcing people to be in at 9 am as of tomorrow, CEOs should have meet with them (feeding the team is always a good idea) and explain that core hours needs to be implemented. They should explain that one’s tasks depends on the others completing their task, and it is becoming crucial to have the entire staff onsite and available to assist one another from 10 to 4 pm. Staff will understand and will realize that the CEO still cares about them, while still retaining some flexibility. When changing benefits and perks, it is important to get input from the team. Where a CEO might think a pension plan if a fantastic benefit, his average 26 years old employee might find it irrelevant. Ask your employees what they would like and what would be relevant to them. Discussing this does not necessarily means accepting everything, but it does show that the values their staff and their input. Employees will not only become the guardians of these new rules, but they will support it with the new employees come on board.
Last but not least, for changes to be effective, they need to be defined and implemented by a third party. That external person is perceived a neutral will moderate and get people on the same page and will avoid any perception of a bias.
The sooner startups and SMEs move to increase their professionalism as they move up the growth curve, the easier and more impactful the transition will be.