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Start Over as a Startup

Posted on 1.03.2013

Facebook had it; so did Groupon. Most startups do. It’s the X factor, a quality you can’t quite put your finger on, but you know it when you see it. Too many companies lose it over time.

The hundreds of thousands of small businesses starting each year don’t share a fraction of Facebook and Groupon’s success; instead they have a start date and an end date, with little time in between. Coming to Website Magazine from a dynamic startup myself, I can tell you there’s a lot to learn from the in between. I encourage you to reflect on your beginnings. Maybe it will help your company get its X factor back.

Whether it’s the unrivaled passion of its staff, the adventurous spirit of its owner or the unequalled opportunities its management offers, one thing is for sure, startups aren’t run on big dreams and good intentions.

At startups, employees often take on a number of different job roles, working harder in return. Both young and experienced professionals learn more about a company and their skill set in this environment than any other.

Encourage your employees to do the same. If you’ve noticed Sally in accounting is active on social media, make her a brand advocate and broaden her experience. If Kyle in sales is a freelance writer, give him a shot at writing website content. By providing your employees a productive outlet for their talents and interests, you can increase employee retention and overall job satisfaction.

At one point, someone took a chance on you; take a chance on your employees. They won’t forget it.

Remember to also find common goals and shared meaning among your staff. Startup employees are motivated and solution oriented, because every milestone at a startup is a shared one. A connected startup staff will celebrate the office’s first water cooler as elatedly as its first sale. Personal successes are company successes, and there’s a camaraderie that’s difficult to duplicate. I suggest trying. Post internal company news and employee announcements in the break room, in a company newsletter or in an internal part of your website, anywhere that keeps communication open and evokes team spirit.

Regular company functions are also a great way to build solidarity. Finding ways to make sure it doesn’t impact your bottom line can be tough, but get creative. Hosting a lunch-hour potluck at the park is free and will leave your staff in high spirits. When was the last time you took an office-wide photo to publish on your Facebook page? Set a date and gather the troops, they’ll enjoy 15 minutes away from their desk, and your fans will like the glimpse into your company’s office life.

For all its amity, startups certainly aren’t without their challenges. All go through growing pains, even some downsizing and closure. Your established business has more job security to offer its employees. This is a selling point for not only retaining employees, but also acquiring new ones. Once you get them, keep them engaged.

Has employee engagement tapered off since your company first started? Think about what you do personally to encourage employee engagement. Now do more. Move beyond a suggestion box, possibly offer open forums to discuss new ideas or simply make senior- level executives and ownership approachable, if they aren’t already. Your employees are on the frontlines. They understand the company’s hits and misses. Perhaps a customer called to complain about the complicated checkout procedure, and your staff member thought of a way to simplify it. Give them a venue to share this information with you.

Value their ideas; it might just be the next big one. All startups succeed at one thing: excitement. Get your staff excited and involved again. It starts with you. After all, at one point, you were just a startup.

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