Startup mangers are different.
Managers are people who get work accomplished through other people.
Startup managers have added complexities: they must get especially difficult things done very fast by (mostly) strangers while riding an unpredictable roller coaster.
All managers in a new enterprise have a very challenging job, often seemingly impossible. I greatly admire them.
Here are some of examples of what distinguishes startup managing.
- Founders are not exempted – they are also managers.
- Everyone gets managerial duties in a startup.
- That’s especially challenging for young people lacking managerial business experience.
- Visionaries and leaders are often not effective managers. They may only be able to inspire or lead. and lack what it takes to be a manager of people who gets amazing things done under demanding circumstances.
Now let’s take a close look at what makes managing in a startup special. When you understand that, you’ll boost your chances of managing well in your new enterprise.
Special Startup Management Skills
- They focus on execution of the company’s plan. They focus on a single objective: executing the company’s initial plan, no matter what they encounter along the bumpy startup trail.
- They expect to encounter lots of changes. Veterans know the initial plan will soon have to be changed in unexpected ways, making execution more and more challenging. They are not rattled by earth-quaking encounters that trigger tremors of fear.
- They are not intimidated by working with strangers. Most of the hires will be strangers. That will increase the challenges and complexity of issues to be encountered. I’ve found a consistent people skill in the veterans that I worked with: they were “quick studies of strangers.” By that I mean that in seconds after the initial meeting, the veterans were confident of who it was they would be working with, and what were their likely strengths and short-comings. Time proved the veteran to be correct. That skill is especially valuable in high tech startups whose geeks are short of people-savvy understanding.
- They figure out how to get people to do things they don’t want to do. That’s why managers are called bosses. They issue orders to employees to do the very hard things. And boring things. Plus, emotionally draining things. And vital things. Yes, also impossible things.
- They also get stress-filled employees to feel good about themselves. They get people to keep seeing the glass half full during the wild ups and downs triggered by unexpected encounters. They achieve that in spite of the intensity generated by demands from bosses and fellow workers.
I marveled several times while coaching leaders of new enterprises that were emotionally ready to blow up. The veterans got the attention of a group of irate employees, then talked them down until calm returned. Veterans possessing such amazing people skills are priceless to startups whose founder and core team are neophyte managers.
- They keep on standby a group of managers prepared to join them. Visionaries may have a clever idea that could be the beginnings of the next great game changer startup. But they also represent a high business risk to venture investors: without managerial ability to execute on the initial idea, a startup’s future is dim. That’s why investors look for founders who have assembled a network of able startup managers eager to join them.
I’ve observed that the startup founders who launched multiple new enterprises spent lots of time keeping a close group of highly qualified managers active, ready to make the move to join their next new enterprise. That collection of business friends often made the difference between getting the startup funded or not. Yes, it takes time and effort, but it’s worth it.
BOTTOM LINE: Startup managers are responsible for delivering results, not excuses. Even though they are riding an unpredictable roller coaster and working with strangers, they transform the initial idea into a successful enterprise.
I wish you The Best on your Adventure!