The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question, “What lessons can transform every entrepreneur’s business for the better?” is written by Shafqat Islam, CEO of NewsCred.
Sometimes it strikes me as a bit crazy that I’ve been an entrepreneur for the better part of a decade. In my mind, I’m still the 20-something-year-old with a spark of an idea that I would die for, but I’m actually now in my thirties, running a very different business than the one I first envisioned.
I’ve learned many valuable lessons along the way, but two very important (and interrelated) ones were critical in getting us to this place in our business’s history; a time where NewsCred, a content marketing platform, is as highly attuned as it’s ever been to both our market opportunity and our employees.
First, be transparent to the point of feeling just a bit uncomfortable.
At NewsCred, transparency has been transformative to getting us to the positive place our business is at today. When in doubt, we err on the side of over-sharing versus under-sharing. As an organization that relies on skilled and smart people showing up to work every day, we share our values in an open-sourced document that anyone in the organization can edit at anytime (you can check it out here yourself).
We even share our board decks, in their entirety, with our staff at our all-hands meetings. Fundamentally, transparency has become a barometer that enables us to adjust the course internally and in how we deliver our solutions externally. We actively solicit unvarnished feedback from customers and internalize it with no ego.
Second, encourage your employees to be their own CEO.
Liz Wiseman, author of Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, once said, “The best leaders increase the capacity of everyone around them.”
The idea is that people are often restricted by their past experiences and micro-managers, which make it difficult for them to grow. Rather than stunting those people, we need to trust them and believe that they are intelligent and capable humans.
As a leader, it’s my job to hire smart people who are excited to let their wings fly, and so they should be; the last thing I want to do is impede that growth. Otherwise, what did I hire them for? But, in order to do that, they need to have the space to take risks and try new outlandish ideas that might just be the thing the company needs to reach the next level.
Independence and ownership of your career is a great thing, which is why all of our employees are their own CEO. At the end of the day, people will either run with it and surprise you with their skills and visions, or they won’t, and then you’ll have at least uncovered a new opportunity to grow the team.
These lessons, which are deeply entwined, weren’t necessarily hard to learn, but they are hard to continuously enact day-in and day-out, and even harder to maintain as our team has grown to nearly 200 staff across five global offices.
Ensuring we have the systems in place to truly hear every person, and share with them “the why” behind the company’s decisions (and the fruits of that labor) ensures we continue to all row, hard, and in the same direction.
It creates shared goals, cross-team communication and support (you’ve always got common ground to discuss), and in general a more open work environment that makes certain even the smallest failures are learning experiences and big wins can be celebrated organization-wide.
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