I believe an important first step that needs to be taken by a startup leader, is providing a vision for the business as a whole. I am not referring to something formulated at a resort at a weekend retreat or some other offsite activity. Formulation of a solid vision requires detailed analysis about why your organization exists, the strategies you plan to use to reach your goals, and the underlying values which will help you get there. This needs to be a collaborative effort and should involve the entire team. In some of my earlier ventures, I disregarded vision as being a fruitless exercise, which involves just talking about goals and objectives without any solid foundations. A vision was something that needed to be put on the website to communicate a message like “We aim to revolutionize the creative designing industry by using state of the art technology and delivering maximum return on investment to our customers.”
When new members joined the team they probably read the vision statement because it was framed and hung in the office entrance. They probably never noticed it after that. What then begins to happen (this process is accelerated at startups) is that team members begin to lose focus, and attention is diverted from the intended goal to something completely opposite. The business eventually starts to lose its footing, and struggles to find direction. The team becomes frustrated with the lack of progress, and motivation takes a nose dive. While all of this is happening, the leaders blame bad market conditions and increased competition for the loss of business. This is when they all need a reality check.
As a leader, it is your initial responsibility to create a vision with your team, one which is strongly rooted in SMART goals. The team must feel and think that the vision is achievable, and know what action steps need to be taken to reach it. Next, the leader has to infuse every member of the team with the spirit of this vision. It will get repetitive, as also really irritating at times to go on and on about something, but this is a vital and important responsibility. It is only when a vision statement becomes more than a piece of paper, will we actually see a boost in productivity of the overall team. One begins to see an increased level of focus and a tangible feeling of direction. If you are in-charge of a startup team or, any other team, start with creating a vision, and aggressively infusing your team with it!