When you first develop your start-up business, maintaining focus is easy. You have to drive sales and product to survive. As your start-up business grows, though, your attention may be pulled in many different directions. The organizational chart is suddenly wider. Operations, sales, marketing, human resources, information technology all become departments, not you, or you and one or two people. They all vie for face time with and attention from you.
So how do you keep your focus when your start-up is in the enviable position of growing?
Keep the Focus on the Customer
Well, the first principle is simple. No matter how many groups and department heads compete for your time, keep your focus on the key ingredient of any successful business: The customer. The customer buys your products. That fact alone makes the customer the royalty of any business.
The Harvard Business Review notes that successful business leaders keep tabs on their customers, and as such, they lead in meeting customers where they are, whether it’s on delivery trucks, front desks of hospitals, or social media platforms.
When your start-up business is growing, you won’t be able to keep tabs on every single customer, of course. But you can make it a point to be in the truck, front desk, or social media in a consistent and visible way so your employees understand that you think the customer-company contact point – the front line – is the most important thing in the organization. Lead by example. Keep your focus on the front line.
Align Strategies with Front Line Objectives
As businesses grow, their multiple departments have specific goals and objectives. Your business leadership has to ensure that those goals and objectives are aligned with the mission of serving the front line. If this isn’t a priority, departments can easily develop a culture that serves their goals and upper management, but is not customer focused.
If your human resources department, for example, is focused on implementing best practices in contemporary human resources, they will need consistent leadership to operationalize those goals into front-line focus. Keep your focus on the front line by ensuring that HR managers align their mission with how their best practices benefit customers.
Obtain Information from the Front Line
As important as briefings with all your department heads are, your primary focus needs to be customer information. Establish avenues of information that tell you customer issues, challenges, goals, and pain points. This can be direct, of course, but you can also ensure that communication with department heads or employees are integrated with front-line focus.
Customer information tells you what you’re doing right – and therefore what you need to continue to do. Customer information is also an early warning system for anything going wrong. If you focus on a steady stream of information, you can trouble-shoot early warnings and use the opportunity to innovate new or improved service.
Finally, employees providing excellent service on the front line – whether receiving kudos from your customer base or articulating a customer pain point – need to be acknowledged and rewarded. Celebrating the service of customer-facing employees not only keeps the focus on customers, it also builds a feedback loop that will benefit both your focus and that of your employees.