Investing in the Future of Food: Five strategies to minimize growing pains while scaling a business

By Elizabeth Crawford contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Investing in the Future of Food, Entrepreneurship, startups

While successfully scaling a business may give entrepreneurs a sense of pride and accomplishment, it also can trigger feelings of loss and skepticism along with other growing pains that if left unchecked could stunt or cripple a company.

Most company founders thrive on the energy and rush of juggling multiple responsibilities and having a hand in almost every aspect of a business, and while this allows them to quickly address challenges and make tactical decisions, Beau River, a management psychologist and leadership strategist at Vantage Leadership Consulting says this approach is not scalable.

He explains that as a business grows the increased work load eventually becomes too much for one person or a small team, and a company will need to bring in additional talent, who likely will have their own ideas and different approaches. To avoid potential conflict and improve compatibility, River recommends in this episode of FoodNavigator-USA’s Investing in the Future of Food​ five strategies to streamline communication and foster long-term success.

Create a reporting dashboard

The first strategy that River encourages scaling companies to embrace is to create a clear reporting dashboard.

“One of the dynamics that is usually true of founders is that she or he has had a vision or seen an opportunity in the marketplace and has attached that with their business and created a business model around that opportunity,”​ River said. But, he adds, as the company scales a founder likely will not have as clear a line of sight on that vision because they he or she will be focused on growing their organization.

To maintain a strategic vision while also ensuring business operations run smoothly, founders and leaders should create a reporting dashboard that clearly details the reporting chain, the frequency with which updates should be elevated and when questions can be tackled at a lower or higher level.

To keep meetings from overrunning the workday, River recommends establishing tight agendas around reviewing key actions and project gateways.

Establish a team compact

River also recommends scaling companies create a team compact that can sets the tone for how stakeholders engage with and treat each other so that high-stress moments don’t take a long-term toll on a team’s ability to work together.

“There is some very clear research that when a new team is formed, clarifying those expectations around collaboration early has drastically improved chance of performance in the longer term,”​ he explained.

Beyond setting tangible performance goals and strategies, a team compact can build a level of professional intimacy through collaboration rather than internal competition – making a work environment more enjoyable, he added.

Clearly define decision-making authority

To encourage creative solutions from employees at all levels without putting too much at stake, River encourages leaders to borrow a page from NASA’s playbook and adopt a one- and two-way door model for decision-making.

He explained that two-way door decisions allow for people to experiment and try new strategies without fear because they know they can simply step back through door and undo the decision if it turns out poorly. A one-way door decision is when a clear pre-determined plan must be followed because there is no way to go back and undo a potential blunder.

By clearly communicating when employees can make one- or two-way door decisions, companies provide a sense of safety while simultaneously empowering creativity and reinforcing compliance as appropriate.

Coach rather than manage

According to River, organizations that offer development opportunities are more likely to attract top talent, which is why he encourages managers and leaders to coach and foster those under them, rather than constantly reminding them of the parameters or limitations of their position.

By coaching, rather than managing, employees, companies create an environment where people are more likely to meet and exceed expectations and ultimately be promoted. This helps retain institutional knowledge and build a sense of loyalty between a business and its employees, he explained.

A good way to ensure new hires are “coachable” is to ask them during the interview process how they responded to recent feedback, said River, adding “if you don’t hear a compelling answer, you may not be talking to someone who is particularly coachable.”

Keep an open mind

Finally, River encourages founders and other leaders to keep an open mind when engaging with stakeholders at all levels of the business, because he says the opportunity to succeed exists in getting results through and with others, rather than through a more siloed perspective.

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