Start-ups have become the new goldenchild – everyone wants to have one, everyone wants to be one. The shift to digital has brought start-ups to the forefront: thanks to the technology we have today, it is easier than ever before to develop, launch, and test ideas. But that doesn’t mean large corporates should throw in the towel and start over. Companies are not large versions of start-ups. And that’s ok.
Before getting caught up in what they aren’t, perhaps larger corporations should look at what they do have. For the purposes of this post, I’ll highlight three areas where corporates have a strong advantage – and how they can make sure they’re taking advantage of those advantages…
“To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.” – Doug Conant, CEO of Campbell’s Soup
Large corporations typically have a large number of employees. That’s hundreds or thousands of active brand ambassadors; numerous individuals, each members of their own networks, who should be living and breathing your company’s values every day. As our economy becomes increasingly digitized and knowledge-based, more and more businesses are realizing that employees are their greatest asset.
The benefits of engaged employees are clear not only within the workplace environment but all the way to the bottom line. Happy employees means productive employees, less turnover and better business. DDI estimates shows that in an organization of 10,000 employees, moving a workforce from low to high engagement can have an impact of over $42 million.
Ensuring employees are happy and engaged, of course, is something that needs to happen actively and consciously within an organization. Going back to the start-up comparison, stability, salary, and benefits are a few advantages corporates can more easily offer than the majority of start-ups. Economies of scale create more opportunity for increased training, mentoring, and diversity within the workforce.
Start-ups are, by nature, flatter organizations and this lack of hierarchy and increased interaction across all levels can be an advantage, bringing increased transparency and communication. Corporates need to work harder to ensure employees feel trusted and empowered – this will allow them to move quickly and make decisions that allow for adaptability and growth. Great ideas can come from anywhere, and often those closest to the front line – ensure those communication pathways and interactions are open.
By understanding and nurturing your employee community – activating company culture and providing employees with the right opportunities to grow – you’ll be creating massive competitive advantage before even looking outside your own office.
I’m aware I’m being slightly controversial on this one. Isn’t it the the few – or complete lack – of formal processes is what allows start-ups to innovate and react quickly, without being lost in a sea of red tape, through numerous sign-offs and handovers? As Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, put it, “The problem is that at a lot of big companies, process becomes a substitute for thinking. You’re encouraged to behave like a little gear in a complex machine.”
Still, those who have had experience working with start-ups are all too aware that this chaos, quick (and sometimes unsubstantiated) decisioning, perhaps multiple pivots, aren’t necessarily always strengths. The right processes prevent errors by ensuring the necessary checks are in place, allow for growth and scalability. Planning, order and the structure behind your ways of working which allows for large teams, and teams of teams, to execute efficiently – can be the difference between businesses who get a lucky one time success and those who are in the for the long term.
This is the most careful point – the one that often needs the most work. There can be a fine line here – between processes which enable and processes which actually kill innovation, kill independent thinking, and kill learning. Getting this right is incredibly important.
Two ways we work with companies on finding this balance are: firstly, to get and stay lean – there can be too much of a good thing – and secondly to have both management and staff understand that processes are not written in stone. The ability to adapt your ways of working to changing internal and external factors allows companies to stay on top of the game.
Successful execution and a scalable product / solution is what turns a start-up into a company in the first place. Just make sure these are the right ones.
In order to have gotten to be a large company (remember, three out of four start-ups fail, according to the WSJ), it means that you have customers. That’s fantastic! A large, captive audience whose trust you’ve earned and whose attention you’ve managed to capture at least once before. The question here than becomes, how well do you know them? Do you know how to keep delighting them? (read our paper).
With people, processes, and customers, corporates have the ability to execute. The key is to remember don’t try and sustain – constantly evolve, improve – learn. It is imperative that you give the people around you the power to do that also.
“There are only three measurements that tell you nearly everything you need to know about your organization’s overall performance: employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and cash flow. It goes without saying that no company, small or large, can win over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it.” – Jack Welch, former CEO of GE.
Interesting in learning more about how The Observer Effect can help you inspire your people, improve your process, or better understand your audience? Drop a line.