Retaining Founding Principles Can Be Tough

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Fast-growth businesses, led by energetic, high-paced, inspirational visionaries, who have the ability to generate innovative ideas and translate (some of) these into practical commercial applications, often face challenges that result from a business’ own success.

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How can this be? Surely fast-growth businesses, characterized by the practical realization of an entrepreneur’s own vision and drive, evidenced by measures such as improved market penetration, profit growth and hiring more people, means that everything is “heading in the right direction,” right? Well, it’s not always so.

Growing pains can lead to the entrepreneur feeling distanced from the front-end of the business. This can occur as the founder feels or sees the customer-facing part of the business failing to meet the standards of service-delivery that he/she identified as the vital defining qualities to differentiate it from the competition. The fundamental principles and values that had been the key ingredients of the founder’s original vision become diluted. This can be caused by employees not having the same levels of engagement, drive or commitment to the cause upon which the business’ very foundations have been built.

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This is not an uncommon challenge. As businesses grow, expand and develop, retaining the founding principles can be tough. How to meet and defeat such challenges is the key question. Going into denial isn’t an option in these situations. An appreciation of the reality that as a business grows, not everybody who comes on board shares the same level of enthusiasm or commitment to the organization’s vision, is needed.

Employee engagement is commonly accepted as a real challenge in large operations– indeed there are an array of management consultancies that offer such services, to support their clients in the areas of employee recruitment, on-boarding, continuing engagement, development, and retention.

However, such issues can also apply to businesses of much smaller scale. Even as a startup (and sometimes especially as a startup), solving these will require investment in employee engagement and relationship management from the leader to secure the continuous delivery of their vision. No matter how passionate you are about your USPs, there will come a point where you have to rely on others to continue to embrace and deliver the standards that you originally set.

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Yes, it’s that much-feared word: delegation- letting go, when you previously had a strong and singular grip on the business’s differentiators. Now, you’re faced with the challenge of inspiring and leading others, so they can deliver the standards that are embedded in your founding DNA.

Creating an environment where your colleagues “get” you and can (if not emulate you) represent your ideals and principles, is possible. This is where having a sounding board, such as an executive coach, can support you in handling the transition from being hands-on to being hands-off, but staying in control of the strategic direction of the business.

Such a transition is never easy and there will undoubtedly be challenges along the way. However, there is nothing more certain than change, and it’s all about how you manage change and provide the leadership that is expected of you. Good leadership is evidenced by what happens when you are away, not what happens when you’re there. 

Related: How To Scale Your Business Without Losing Your Mission

Martin Braddock

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Martin Braddock is an Associate Director of Performance Development Services (PDSi) based in Dubai. He has over 25 years senior management experience within international blue-chip and privately-owned fast growth organizations. He held positions with Land Rover, Rank Xerox, BET, and the RAC, managing mergers and acquisitions across Europe and the U.S., and he has also led the turn-around of two SME businesses as CEO and MD. Braddock coaches throughout the MENA Region across a range of sectors including financial and business services, healthcare, manufacturing, energy, automotive and engineering services, pharmaceutical, and retail. Braddock holds a Diploma in Advanced Executive Coaching accredited by The International Coach Federation.