I started my first company straight out of graduate school. My co-founders and I knew nothing about start-ups and even less about the sector we targeted -- healthcare.
Like most budding entrepreneurs, our ignorance about what we were getting into was blissful -- at least at first. We dove into our new company with gusto, raising a $3.5 million seed round and bringing what we thought would be a game-changing technology to market.
Three years (a failed partnership and a bankruptcy) later, I had the unpleasant experience of having to look employees and investors in the eye and explain what went wrong and why we had failed. I had to pick up the pieces and move on. Fortunately, out of that experience came lessons that I use to this day in my own executive experience and in the coaching I do with others.
A few of these lessons are:
First, life is full of change -- and that doesn't stop when you start a company or take on a new job. Keeping your life goals in sync with your professional world is essential to finding success. This is especially true in high-growth situations, where things move quickly and getting off-track can be damaging to your home and/or work life.
Second, partnerships, co-founder dynamics and management teams are an essential ingredient to any company's success. Whether you are early or growth stage, shared vision and values and good communication norms must be both established and maintained. Growth brings its own pressures, and these can be deadly to leadership team relationships. Consider this: you "marry" your business partners knowing much less about them than you do about your spouse, and often almost nothing about their family lives.
Third, vision is essential to success, particularly when your company is in high-growth mode. Aligning vision, values and culture is more important than stock options and free meals in building a company that will last. And in a era where employee turnover is endemic (and exceedingly costly), keeping employees engaged in the mission is a strategic element of success.
Fourth, CEOs and founders can easily fall victim to their own press clippings, and can lose valuable perspective on what is really happening in their organization. It is critical to constantly question assumptions and have sounding boards who are willing to give you raw, unfiltered news. Too often executive teams end up "shooting the messenger" -- which is why employees are unlikely to play that role. This is what a good executive coach can and should do.
And last, each phase of growth has its own challenges, and it is important to bring in experts who can help plan for change. Complexity grows over time, and your ability to negotiate complexity actually decreases the longer you are immersed in it.
If you are interested in learning more, feel free to contact me here or call me directly at 949-525-2611.
You can learn more about my background at LinkedIn.