Updated: Jun 7, 2019
Creating a company requires a perfect balance of many different qualities. You need the creativity to build something unique and innovative, the perseverance to see your idea through from start to finish, and the organizational skills to wear several hats at the same time.
The skills it takes to start a business are often different from the ones required to move a company into the future. At Storyboard, we have the pleasure of working with some high-performing entrepreneurs who have successfully transitioned into amazing long-term leaders. These are the skills they use to lead their teams, grow their brand, and create a corporate culture that thrives.
1. Know when to go fast, and when to slow down
The creativity it takes to build a company helps solve problems that might seem insurmountable for some. As a leader, it's important to remember that understanding the right road to take is not easy for everyone.
Sometimes, the most skilled members of your team will be slow starters. They need time to adapt, figure out their fit in the company, and understand how their skills can benefit the team.
Many leaders throw new employees into the deep end because they want to see the same qualities it took them to succeed replicated in every member of their team. They want to see a new hire overcome challenges and grow through them.
Remember, not everyone is able to navigate without a roadmap. Giving a new employee a challenge that they don’t have the tools to complete is setting them, and you, up for failure. The key to leading is to understand that your special skills started the company, but new skills are needed to make it succeed into the future.
Knowing when to guide your team through a challenge, and when to let them take it head on, is difficult. A leader who knows when to take it slow, and give employees the guidance they need, will create a team that respects leadership and welcomes new challenges.
2. Set team goals
Leaders are often tempted to set individual goals for their team members. Whether it’s related to sales, marketing, development, or any other department, setting a goal that makes sense for one individual seems easy but can be detrimental to your success.
Newer companies are a huge draw for employees who like to wear many hats. They understand the culture of a new company requires them to use a variety of different skills to achieve unique and creative results.
By setting out team goals, that reach across departments, successful leaders give all employees a chance to diversify their skills and bring unique insights to challenges.
A developer may be able to suggest a new idea or trend that marketing is hearing chatter about from the customer service team. A sales team may be able to boost revenue by giving insights on a technical issue no one else has considered. A content writer can increase awareness by creating articles that bring in a new audience.
Setting team goals allows your entire staff to flex their boundaries and offer unique insights. Remember, you’re leading a true team, not a group of individuals.
3. Monitor the competition
Once you create something successful, there are bound to be imitators. When you’re eventually ready to expand to new markets, you may find an idea or product like yours that wasn’t on your radar in your current market.
True leaders are constantly analyzing their competitors, even when the competition does not seem directly related. By understanding how the competition presents themselves and attracts their audience or clients, leaders can determine a creative path that puts them ahead and sets them apart from the pack.
Unfortunately, many new leaders are so focused on what they’re doing that they forget to look at what’s developing in the market around them. Weekly or monthly updates on what your competitors are achieving, and where they fail, helps you avoid mistakes of your own and really conquer the market you’re jumping into.
4. Remember that the culture starts with you
Your corporate culture starts with you.
As a leader, your behaviour and values are noticed by your team. How you respond to conflict, inter-office politics, even how you dress sets the tone for how your employees behave. While your natural behaviour is always the best, there are some behaviour pitfalls that leaders need to avoid.
1. Reacting without the details - Leaders tend to develop close relationships with key employees. But, don’t mistake your friendships for performance indicators. If complaints come in, always get the team’s input on the issue before deciding. And, cement your office as a safe space. Even if someone is your “go-to” employee, team members should feel comfortable bringing issues to you.
2. Client complaints - Every company has clients. Those clients can be amazing, or absolutely the worst. How you talk about clients to your team will dictate your employee’s behaviour with clients. If you’re constantly berating a client, your employees might put that client’s needs at the bottom of the pile. Or, ignore that client completely because they think their leader doesn’t care about the client.
Always communicate the value of every client to your team, even if there are issues you need to vent about.
5. Sometimes you’ve got to wing it
All leaders suffer from “imposter syndrome” at some point. There is a feeling that decisions may not be right, products may be “good” and not “great”, and the team needs more concrete direction to get the job done.
These feelings are completely natural and need to be embraced. You’re doing something that’s never been done. There is no road map and getting lost along the way is natural. Always remember that the benefit of bringing a team on board is having co-pilots you trust.
Once you’re a leader, your team becomes your number one asset, and winging it can be a part of the process.
When in doubt, remember that the wrong decision is still better than no decision. Mistakes can be fixed but staying stagnant will really keep you out of the game – sometimes forever.
Building a company is hard. Leading a team to follow your vision is harder. If you stay true to your vision, your goals, and build an authentic culture, your team will value your goals as much as you do.
Richard Oyelowo is a corporate finance and accounting professional with over ten years of experience, five of which have been dedicated to investor relations and corporate communications.
He is passionate about helping companies connect with their stakeholders in an impactful way. Over the course of his career, he realized that there was a better way for small and mid-cap companies to manage their investor relations, which led Richard to start Storyboard.