Trust: the key to growth in entrepreneurial businesses

A growing company is exciting, ambitious and chaotic. Balancing growth with control is often the greatest challenge, demanding both trust and flexibility; however, without appropriate systems and resources it is likely that sustainable growth will be limited.

The issue is trust. After growing the company through its initial start up, moving into the next phase can create a fear that the excitement and vigour of the early days will be lost if too much control is put in place. This means that senior management and owners need to learn to trust their front line managers and allow them to operate with autonomy.  

This is essential or the company simply cannot function effectively. If people within the organisation are committed to its growth, then fewer controls will be required. If commitment is low, then more control is required. Striking the right balance is the key-your people must have your imprimatur to operate and without undue interference. Conversely, as an owner, you will need to keep an eye on things from a distance to ensure that things are progressing satisfactorily.

Formal structures may not work. In a company which operates in a fast-paced environment, the traditional structures that define tasks and authority lines will reduce the ability of the business to remain entrepreneurial, which is how it has succeeded thus far. Instead of static controls this type of company needs flexibility so that people and resources operate together as a network, with on-going communications.

Communication should happen through informal conversation or indirectly through coordinated actions. Importantly, casual meetings on a regular basis will help staff define and agree on boundaries, and ensure the company’s identity and direction are all maintained, and all areas of the business work in synergy.

Incentives are vital. The nature of an entrepreneurial company means that success demands a collaborative environment. One way to do this is by using a reward and compensation system that ensures standards are maintained throughout the organisation.

Leadership training is not only meant to achieve compliance, it is a mechanism that engenders a sense of community and aids in developing direction and boosting involvement of key members of the team.

Teach the next generation. Developing and promoting staff is the key to the future of the business, and they need to be well resourced, trained and compensated to step forward as the original entrepreneurs envisioned. If you value your staff-tell them. We all want to be wanted and finding and retaining committed, motivated staff inevitably underpins the success of any business.

Avoid top-down control. Interference by management below the senior levels is counterproductive to the growth of an entrepreneurial business. Openness and consistent communication are vital elements to building the trust that’s required to maintain sustainable growth and a high performing organisation.  

Use negotiation instead of commands, be informal and facilitate negotiation. This information process limits inter-staff competition and improves the company’s ability to manage in a dynamic business environment and rapidly changing circumstances.

Trust should be made part of the company’s culture. Management needs to be open and supportive, and accept that as the business grows they cannot control everything they once did. Mentor rather than manage, allow and facilitate freedom and, above all, communicate.

Communication is the cement of the company’s structure. It’s clear, open and honest communication that will build the trust to ensure an entrepreneurial company will grow and succeed.

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