I have had the honor of being the CEO or senior business leader for many companies over my career — from startups to mid-sized to Fortune 1000 firms. Regardless of the company, size, dynamics or challenges, I have found the following to be the key ways of maximizing opportunities.
1. There is no secret sauce to success
A fundamental distraction faced by many would-be entrepreneurs is the chase for the next shiny object or secret recipe for advancement. The hard but liberating reality is that these don’t usually exist. The real recipe includes things that every successful businessperson has been doing for generations. None of these are secret, but they do distinguish a winning venture from a failure regardless of its niche: focused hard work, experimentation, dedication to optimizing customer experience, creating a product that delivers real value and promoting the hell out of your efforts. I can report that these essentials hold particularly true in the software development and other tech sectors.
2. Be a focused leader
Working hard to create and promote your business is critical — whether it’s a software as a service (SaaS) or cutting-edge blockchain tech company — but without a focused, purposeful mission at the core of these efforts, it’s going to be much harder. If you want to inspire your staff, collaborators and customers in 2022, give them a simple and central message and focused leadership that underscores everything your company is doing. Such leadership doesn’t just include yourself; it should filter down to your team and especially to the people who are building any backend infrastructure.
Again referencing the tech sector here: a key area of potential weakness that focused leadership can improve is reconciliation between your company’s IT teams and your fundamental mission. As recent analysis from McKinsey points out, one of a successful company’s key qualities is its ability to align the vagaries of its IT developers with the business itself. Achieving this can let you lead your teams towards justifying experimentation for its own sake based on whatever actually makes customers happy, and also keep your startup focused on real growth.
3. Implement clear communication channels
Focused leadership only works if communication among teams, all employees and customers is kept as clear and open as possible. This means implementing functional channels across the board, but also means taking communication seriously instead of simply paying lip service to the idea (while perhaps actually fostering a culture of fearful silence). As a company leader, you are responsible for implementing these channels, a part of its culture that nobody else can handle as effectively.
4. Define a workplace philosophy
Implementing focused leadership and a robustly useful system of open communication at all levels will let you spread the gospel of your company more effectively. You can create whatever philosophy you like, of course, but keeping it focused on customers in some specific way is crucial. You’re trying to deliver something valuable to the people who keep your business afloat, and making sure that customers’ happiness guides you in this goal also helps foster a winning company philosophy. It’s easy to become so obsessed with new features and shiny additions to products, services and cool technologies that this philosophy gets lost. Don’t let that happen.
5. Strive for the success of employees
Your employees are one of the three pillars of success (the other two being customers and the product or service). Because of their importance, strive to do everything in your power for their wellbeing, which will nurture loyalty, extra effort, overall happiness and a healthier culture.
This requires work directed towards understanding employees’ needs and any criticisms they might have. This will not only make team members respect you more, it also improves workplace inefficiencies. (The same rules apply, incidentally, if your company is using a near shore or otherwise offsite workforce.)
6. Listen carefully and lead with purpose
Having robust communication channels and striving for employee well-being won’t do much good if you’re not listening, as team members will quickly notice inattentiveness. This can hider hiring right and retaining the best talent pool. Listening carefully to individual or team complaints and gaining a reputation for taking them seriously means you are more likely to be surrounded by a growing and loyal pool of highly skilled and motivated individuals.
2022 likely won’t be much different from previous years when it comes to “secrets” for success. The essentials remain as concrete as they’ve always been. However, if you and your startup do nothing else, applying the above rules more rigorously can make this a year genuinely worth remembering.