How to Operate Like a Startup No Matter How Big Your Company Is

April 2, 2014

Brian Dunson

Attorney, Paradigm Counsel

Startup businesses are characterized by rapid growth, passionate leadership and dynamic friend-based marketing. Unfortunately, startups also have the greatest potential to fold. If you’re at the helm of an established company that wants all the advantages of a startup without the increased risk of failure, we have some simple strategies to get that new-company magic back.

Bring in Fresh Thinkers

Surround yourself with smart people and innovative thinkers. If your business was one of the many college-town startups, you may have started out with fresh college grads with big ideas and endless ambition. Now you are all seasoned, experienced executives, and your viewpoints may have changed.

Local colleges and universities both attract and offer intellectual people and resources, and you should be sharing ideas with them. Create an internship program for green, talented college students and grads to bring in a fresh outlook and new perspective. Interns are ideal for writing blog posts and make exceptional brand advocates.

Keep in mind, though, that the main goal of company internships is to offer mentorship and learning opportunities for young professionals. If you don’t have clear goals or are too busy to guide interns, it might not be the right choice for you.

Give Your Hiring Strategy a Face Lift

Another benefit of internships: They groom future employees. A report from University of North Carolina and the Young Entrepreneurs Council predicts millennials will make up 36 percent of the workforce by the end of this year, and that number is expected to grow to 46 percent by 2020. Make your company attractive to young professionals, and you’ll bring in members of this tech-savvy, eager and diverse generation. What are millennials looking for in a company? According to the report:

  • Most millennials prioritize meaningful work over a high salary
  • 52 percent of young professionals want an employer to have clear career-progression opportunities
  • 92 percent of professionals in their early 20s said entrepreneurship education was vital

Being able to expand your company within a certain timeframe is one of the keys to keeping the freshness of the organization. There is a positive link between the amount of time a business survives and its employment growth, according to this Cone Communications/Echo Global study. Bring in new people, and you change the dynamic of a company. Even if your company is not in a position to do major hiring, consider alternative options to shake things up:

  • Hire part-timers and contractors to change up the companys composition
  • Create a volunteer program or offer professional workshops to bring in new faces and fresh ideas
  • Offer incentives like gift baskets or free lunches for new ideas and employee initiative

Remember the Community

Ask yourself how well your business fits in with the community. Entrepreneurial social capital is the environment that nurtures a new business. This is a bidirectional relationship between the local community and the business. According to the Cone Communications/Echo Global study, 82 percent of Americans take a company’s social responsibility into account when deciding whether to do business there. No matter how large your company grows, building a strong relationship with the community will benefit every aspect of your business plan. Suggestions to do this include:

  • Get employees involved in a community event or charity project
  • Be open to customer questions and concerns through social media or your website
  • Offer incentives for employees who volunteer on their own
  • Sponsor local events
  • Let consumers know how you are giving back to the community and welcome suggestions for future involvement