How can you retain your business’ ‘soul’ as you scale?

Business Support | Columnists | Technology
Greg Le Tocq

Greg Le Tocq is the co-founder of Cloud Savings Company – which owns Vouchercloud. Groupon recently bought the business for $65m. 

Starting a business is a challenge; growing it to an optimal state in today’s market is doubly so. One of the biggest challenges is ensuring the integrity of the business’s values – its ‘soul’.

Any one-man band may start with the intention to change the world and disrupt the market, but as time goes on, lofty missions can often give way to more mundane expectations.

That’s why values are so important. They’re the roadmap – the strategy- that helps drive a business towards its ultimate mission – whether that’s a focus on offering quality, individual performance or generating a more community-led focus; if the mission is the destination, then values are the map.

What was Microsoft’s original mission

For Microsoft, that began as: “A computer on every desk and in every home”. This was of course later extended to pockets, laps, cars, refrigerators and anywhere else a mobile device may be found. Now, their mission is to “empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more”. Values, and by extension the brand mission, act as a behavioural anchor which can become harder to maintain as a company grows.

In the early stages, the values of a business often come directly from its founder. On expanding – whether simply headcount or location-based growth – the source of these values can become far removed. Much like the problem of siloing between departments, without a senior guiding hand, these values can morph and distort if not properly managed, compromising the end goal of the company.

This leaves the business in a difficult position. With various areas not ‘bought in’ on the overall company value, the benefit of the values themselves is diluted.

In a previous column with Business Leader, I discussed the merits of trusting your gut in the decision making process. There is the requirement to make these gut decisions from a data-rich position – collecting as much information as possible before making a choice.

A part of that foundation is the knowledge that employees are motivated towards the same goal – the same end mission – you are. Any decision made on a rocky foundation is, by its very nature, unstable.

Strong and succinct values represent a core pillar of the information needed to support an effective decision making process. In short, it can be described as knowing your team is behind you, and that they are capable of all driving forward in the same direction.

As such, maintaining core values throughout the growth trajectory of a company is an essential strategy for long term stability. As with many things in life, starting small and building as you go is a far more viable strategy than finding yourself at the top of your industry on a poorly built foundation.

Values need to be nurtured little and often for optimal mission results – in this case, these values need to be encapsulated by more people than just the founder, such as senior team members or ‘ambassadors’

Motivated staff 

A lot of people, particularly business leaders, overlook the benefit of having staff motivated towards the same mission, following the same instruction manual to get there. It’s the same difference as that seen between hard and soft skill assessments during the interview process. Just because it isn’t quantifiable on a spreadsheet doesn’t mean it’s not important.

So can the values of a small business survive an exponential growth path?

The answer comes down to how much effort is invested into it. It’s all too easy to miss the forest for the trees and push towards micro-metrics, but driving towards a shared mission, supported by clear values, is an investment that will always pay off.

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