On this edition of the Silicon Valley Momentum Podcast, Roland Siebelink talks about trying to get your startup out of a funk. About four or five years after it’s first founded, most startups start to hit a wall, causing the excitement to die down and making it harder to inspire employees to go the extra mile. Roland talks about the best ways to get your startup out of a funk using examples from startups he’s helped in the past.
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How do you get your startup out of a funk? After you've been at it for a number of years, you're in the mid stage and somehow it doesn't seem like you have quite the same momentum anymore.
Hello, I'm Roland Siebelink. And this is a question I get most often from mid-stage CEOs. People that have run their company for four or five years, maybe they've raised two or three rounds.
The team has grown a lot bigger than it once was. But somehow the momentum seems to be failing. The team doesn't seem to be going the extra mile that much anymore. People start going home earlier. You have to keep pushing for KPIs, OKRs, whatever performance system you use and people are not taking the responsibility by themselves.
And just in general, there's a preponderance of small issues that people worry about that don't seem to be really affecting the big picture that you were going for.
What happens in this case is that too many people, the inspiration has gone missing.
And the remedy then is to reactivate, reconnect, and strengthen the core purpose of the business.
The reason why you really started the business in the first place and what impact you wanted to make in the world. So, a company I worked with in Australia, a famous gaming company, had escape from boredom as their purpose.
Releasing people from the boredom that otherwise threats their every day. And you can imagine how inspiring that purpose is when people are too much in the numbers or they're too focused on small issues to say,
"Hey, our real purpose here, the big mountain that we want to climb over there is to let everyone escape from the boredom in their daily life."
Now, another company that was in employee software said our core purpose is to empower every single employee. And there again, you can imagine how inspiring that is to be in the frontline for empowerment. For helping every single employee out there, that's a client in a client company of the business to do better.
If you need more inspiration for your core purpose, then I often recommend to look at campaign slogans. Political campaigns are masters at finding slogans, finding a core purpose that everyone can rally around.
And without going into recent slogans, generic slogans such as "securing our future" or "time for progress" are really great examples of a core purpose of a campaign or a politician. And what I want the CEO then to do is to constantly link all of their goals and their metrics and their projects to that purpose. Do the homework of reconnecting everything you do to that core purpose.
So the gaming company I talked about, "escape from boredom" helps them to really reignite the whole creativity in the business.
Not only did they start offering prizes to people, but they started hiring more gaming studios and really upped the ante in overcoming a creative funk that was haunting them in those days. The company that had every single employee empowered as their core purpose was suffering with rolling out their software in their enterprise clients as so many enterprise businesses are. And yet, because their core purpose was to empower every single employee, they overcame that. They saw how important it was to get particularly good at rollouts and at helping their clients empower every single employee that they signed up for it.
And finally, in political campaigns, of course, it's probably a common theme around the world that many volunteers and lowly-paid campaign workers will actually buy into that purpose as the main reason for why they spend their time on getting their politician elected.
So when you feel like your startup is in a funk and people are not going the extra mile anymore, you have to keep pushing for results. Then it's time to reactivate your core purpose. Keep connecting all of your goals and your metrics to that inspiring vision. And that will help to get your startup out of a funk.