While there is a lot of talk around the current multitude of crises and how they affect ‘big tech’ and startups alike, one thing remains extremely important in building a business throughout all market cycles: consistency.
Something I value a lot in life and business is ‘consistency’. It sounds easy in theory but is much harder to implement in practice. When talking about consistency, it all comes down to how a company is doing things regularly based on what it is trying to achieve.
In general, a company’s main target doesn’t have to be too precise. However, it has to be clear enough to everyone as the big picture usually doesn’t change. Committing to executing your goals accordingly is more tricky though. When you decide to do something, you first really need to stick to it. The second – and more challenging – part is having the right parameters in place to do so consistently…
The word of 2023: Consistency
Companies are in different phases at different times. Not just as they grow, but also as the market conditions change. As we are coming out of a time of excessive exuberance, investors are looking for consistency in execution more than ever. These days, founders need to really batten down the hatches and execute with a focus on their core performance drivers, especially post-Series A.
Consistency in business builds trust. Investors are searching for it from the very early stages. Every investor surely loves a big vision, and it is also great if there is hype around your product, but that alone is not enough. In other words, you just can’t sell a picture of an ape or a rock for $1M in 2023 anymore…
Creating consistency is tough, especially at the very early stages. When you build a business, things constantly change – which makes it difficult to consistently have a consistent performance. It is almost impossible if you don’t have the right parameters set up.
The Business OS – setting the right parameters
One of the main tasks of every entrepreneur is to build a ‘Business OS’ (business operating system) to ensure to stay focused and execute well over a long period of time. At the base level, every company needs a ‘pulse’. This doesn’t refer to having a budget worked out, but to a company’s operating or management system.
Every great company I work with has its unique ‘drum’: exceptional startups operate on a certain rhythm perceptible to everyone in and around the company. Cadence will make people stick to your mission and the necessary steps toward it. The same goes for individuals – routines are the biggest productivity hack there is.
While there are many approaches to it building a Business OS (e.g. using OKRs), it is a simple idea: Using a company’s values, you create a set of consistent rhythm for communications, meetings, procedures, and decision-making. This helps align everyone’s goals with the ultimate objectives of a company. When those fundamentals are in place in addition to having a strong culture and management, this kind of operating system can literally take a team to the mountaintop.
Get a Head of Ops on board post Series A
It is the Head of Ops or COO’s job to build this system. Post Series A, every company should make this position a key hire. Moreover, the top management needs to lead the implementation of a Business OS. They are the drummer in the band – they need to set the pulse to make the organization live. But the CEO needs support, 90% of companies introduce OKRs through their leadership team. The goal here is to also improve corporate governance and take your startup to the next level. One of the key improvements you should see as a result of implementing your own Business OS should be more consistency and clarity in communications and processes. For example, having one single and easy-to-use reporting template, IT system like Google’s suite of workspace tools, communication channel, etc.
These things are the foundation for consistent performance. It will help everyone see the bigger picture and it gives the top management the tools to emphasize key consistency drivers while having the agility to tighten or loosen the screws where needed. The impact will be that the CEO can communicate almost everything clearly and consistently in the context of the company’s Culture/Values, Goals/KPIs/Metrics, and Systems/Processes. The opposite of having an effective Business OS is a company that is confused due to a lack of clarity and unable to move in the same direction together. Missed goals and opportunities are the inevitable result…
There is no one-size-fits-all
There are many ways to get this pulse going and sustain it. There are techniques like agile product development, monthly and quarterly OKRs, weekly shows and tells at the all-hands meeting, etc. To some extent, it is ‘form over substance’. You should not be religious about one method or another, but you need to choose one. Every startup’s management needs to figure out what they like best. The process is ultimately more important than the specific objectives and key results that flow through the process.
The regular setting of objectives (quarterly is a time frame most companies use) and the weekly or bi-monthly reporting against them is the most valuable thing that comes from the process. This is also why I like to set board meetings quarterly (with monthly or bi-quarterly updates). Without this pulse, startups won’t survive.