Small actions that can have a large impact.
With the end of the year approaching, you may be reflecting over the past year and thinking ahead to next. A lot of us are in the same boat. Pushing yourself to learn and grow is essential to keeping any startup strong. So we asked founders: What's one thing has contributed most to your growth over the last year and why?
1. Using a Printed Planner
As CEO of a digital marketing agency, many would be surprised that a big contributing factor to our growth in the last year is the use of paper planners. Taking time to write down our goals, schedule tasks to accomplish into our planners, and then crossing them off when complete forced me and my team to invest in the process of looking at the big picture and staying accountable to getting things done.
2. Asking for My Employees for Feedback
It was always easy to live by the motto "I know best." Until I realized I didn't. Once I asked employees where I wasn't as effective as I should be and where I had the biggest room to grow, I was able to step back and fix the issues that were holding the company back.
3. Managing a Team of Leaders
In most agency settings, there is a clear-cut pecking order (manager, account executive, coordinator etc.). But in the last year I realized that developing a team of leaders instead has grown the business as well as our capabilities. People are more accountable and are more likely to take calculated risks, which I love. I've learned to let go of control and trust!
4. Working on Micro-Community Development
We're a strictly vertical company which breeds a healthy focus for employees within their speciality and produces strong department loyalty. Over time, it has also isolated departments and reduced inter-departmental communication. I created projects that required inter-department collaboration and implemented multi-department meetings. Our company has since flourished we are producing our best work.
5. Getting Outside My Comfort Zone
The times when we are uncomfortable are generally the times when we have an opportunity to grow. I routinely put myself in situations that are not comfortable initially (big name conferences, speaking engagements, in meetings with big wigs, etc.) to be around people who bring me up and to stretch myself.
6. Focusing on the Customer
Our company has grown exponentially because we have gone back to the basics: the customer. Rather than work on projects myself or focusing on the day-to-day, I have delegated most of those tasks and focused on business development. In addition, we have established a detailed communication and capture strategy for each customer.
7. Letting Go
As women, we are wired to want (and think we can) do it all. This year I hired employees (part-time and contractors) in key areas I simply could not manage on my own anymore. Freeing up this time has allowed me to focus on the bigger picture and as a result I have seen growth I never thought possible. We are going into 2016 poised to have our biggest year yet!
8. Taking a Group Trip With Other Founders
I went on a week-long trip abroad with a group of tech founders, many of whom successfully built large companies. Observing how other founders lead activities and interact with others during our trip helped me learn more communication techniques. We also traded tips and stories on overcoming challenges, reminding each other that we're not alone in battling startup obstacles.
9. Moving to South America
As the founder of multiple companies and managing dozens of employees and campaigns, I found myself burning the candle from both ends. I was overworked and overwhelmed! I decided to make a massive change, and moved my base of operations to Colombia. I moved to a beach town with very inexpensive costs, so I could improve my quality of life and hire more help. It's the best thing I've done!
10. Embracing "Mompreneurship"
Being both a mom and an entrepreneur has really changed my business. I am now able to relate and network with other moms who are alsobusiness owners. There is a great sense of community among working mom CEOs and it has lead to new clients and new business opportunities for me.
11. Building My Personal Board of Directors
I'm fortunate to be in Phoenix where we have a very engaged community. Many of our successful CEOs regularly show up and help out budding startups. Instead of just considering my peers friends and leaving it at that, I've started to note their unique strengths. Now, when I face a challenge I simply run though my mental directory of experts and pick up the phone. It's made me much more effective.
12. Not Being Afraid to Disagree
My biggest growth this year came when I decided it was OK to have a different opinion because of my age and gender. Don't be afraid to trust your gut; it's what got you here, even if it's in disagreement with the way things have always been done. I have found that women will not engage for fear of overturning the apple cart, but sometimes that's exactly what needs to happen to see positive change.
13. Asking Customers for Feedback
Asking for and receiving feedback has helped to create a culture of feedback at Stitch Fix and has helped my growth and development as a leader. At Stitch Fix, when a client doesn't leave us feedback on her Fix, it makes it much more difficult to style her next Fix. We translate this sentiment to the feedback we owe to each other so that we all can be aware of what we can do to be better.
14. Focusing on One Thing at a Time
As a woman, I'm supposedly great at multitasking. And at times, it's a trait I’m glad to possess. But when it comes to our growth this year, focusing on too many verticals wasn't helpful. The second I honed in on one strong market segment that was performing, my growth doubled! Multitasking is a good skill, but when it comes to the company’s growth, focus is key.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.