Operations Articles

Keeping Your Company Aligned

Written by James Garvin for Gaebler Ventures

Like many companies that start out with several founders, energy and passion drive the team forward developing their products, honing their marketing strategy and coming up with a launch plan. However, as deviations to the business and strategy plan become necessary and apparent, many startup-up teams struggle to keep the co-founders aligned on a single strategy.

A common challenge many co-founders are faced with is disagreement among the team as to what strategy should be implemented and how things should be done.

Keeping Your Company Aligned

Misalignment among co-founders and the management team can cause severe disruption in the long-term success of the firm and is something that should be dealt with and managed properly before the organization is formally established.

To keep the team aligned from start to finish, an operating guide should be established from the very start that provides formal guidance on how decisions are made and who is responsible for making those decisions. Is it majority vote or is it up to only the CEO? Knowing how decisions are going to be made among co-founders is a critical and often forgotten decision that can have devastating effects on the friendship, morale, and future health of the company.

An operating guide can be formal or informal; however one should be established that the team members agree on from day one. Change is as much a part of entrepreneurship as is a good idea and excellent execution. A key component for many startups is how they handle the necessary changes that provide the company its best opportunity for sustained growth. Companies are broken up by internal bickering due to disagreement on the direction of the company and often when decisions are left at a stalemate, the entire venture can blow up.

There are several organizational strategies that a company can implement, however most experts tend to agree that putting one man in charge to make the decisions often provides the organization with the most efficient decision making process. The one person, also known as the CEO, certainly isn't the only person generating and implementing ideas, but it is his duty to make the critical decisions and ensure that all team members involved are aligned and supportive of his/her decision.

Some companies implement the co-CEO approach where two founders serve the dual role as the executive officer. While this may serve the founders well from day one to maintain strong friendship and comradery among the company founders, co-CEO's will at some point come across a decision in which they do not agree on. Once that point is reached, the company runs the risk of falling into a state of disarray as the two founders and the company's CEO's run amok trying to argue their own ways.

Successful start-ups and entrepreneurs understand that organizational management is a key to component to their business and one that all entrepreneurs should put more emphasis on when starting their companies. An operating agreement that lays out the clear plans to make decisions can serve as a good insurance policy that pays its dividends when the time comes. Nothing can be more disruptive to the health of a company and the friendship among company founders than when heads collide when critical decisions need to be made.

James Garvin began his education studying biotechnology. In recent years he has turned his interest in technology to helping two internet startup companies. The first business was an online personal financial network and the second was an e-marketing platform created to help entrepreneurs demo their web sites. Currently a student at University of California Davis, James is spending his summer incubating two new online businesses and writing about his entrepreneur experiences.

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