I spoke to Glen Gilmore, who is an internationally-recognized digital marketing strategist. He is also a practicing attorney and teaches Digital Marketing, Crisis Communications and Social Media Law at Rutgers University Center for Management Development. Glen was ranked two years in a row near the top of the Forbes’ list of “Top 50 Social Media Power Influencers.” In the following brief interview, he talks about his tips for running a startup, what founders should pay attention to, managing a team, and more.
Dan Schawbel: What are some of your tips for running a startup company from an operational standpoint?
Glen Gilmore: As a startup begins to take off, founders need to pay close attention to the energy and efficiency of their team. To bring the enterprise to scale, they need to invest in filling in gaps in expertise and shifting resources to customer service.
1. Energy. The energy of your team is critical to the ongoing success of your startup and the founders need to make sure that the energy and enthusiasm of the team remain high. This often simply requires taking moments to recognize team members for their sacrifices and talent in the face of uncertain outcomes and often low pay.
2. Efficiency. Efficiency is about keeping an eye on roles and goals within the enterprise. If everyone is doing everything, you’ll waste of lot of time and effort. Assigning specific responsibilities and benchmarking tasks will help track your team’s efficiency and help it to know when to pivot to keep efficiencies improving.
3. Expertise. Success will reveal gaps within your startup. Constantly ask if you have the expertise you need to have to reach the next performance plateau. For example, if you find that customers are complaining about the process of placing orders online, it may be time for you to find new talent that understands that process better than anyone on your existing team. Being realistic about the expertise of your team and talent acquisition will drive success.
4. Customer Service. Too often, startups pour heart and soul into launching a product or service, then, don’t give it a chance to succeed by neglecting to put the same effort into customer service. Stellar customer service will get your startup through rocky roads with your community.
From launch to scale, keep figuring out what inspires your customers, what discourages them, and tend to both. This means inviting your community to comment and listen and respond when they do.
Schawbel: What should founders pay attention to and what mistakes do they usually make?
Gilmore: The only way to start riding a bike is by riding a bike. Too many founders are afraid of speed and of falling, so they never get to ride the bike.
Sticking with the biking analogy, knowing that you’re going to have falls is something every founder has got to come to grips with and be prepared to move beyond. Falling off a bike doesn’t mean you can’t learn how to ride a bike, it just means you haven’t gotten the swing of it.
For novice bike riders, falling on their bike usually means they weren’t moving forward fast enough or that they didn’t listen to the advice of those with a bit more experience in successful bike riding — or that they just gave into their doubts.
Founders need to understand the importance of moving forward, actually heed some of the advice that they are given, and know that falling off a bike a few times is generally a perquisite to a lifetime of bicycling joys.
Schawbel: What is the importance of social media when trying to build a brand and how do employees be part of that?
Gilmore: Building a community is really the secret to building a successful business, whatever the business might be. It’s all about relationship building.
Social media is where the conversation is happening and it’s where startups need to be. By listening in social media, startups will learn better what drives their community. They’ll learn in real-time what people don’t like about the product or service. They’ll also be able to join the conversation to promote brand awareness, address customer issues, and inspire brand advocates. No ad lets you build relations like a conversation in social media does.
Employees, especially in a startup, should be encouraged and empowered to be brand advocates. This means giving employees some guidance on how they can best promote the startup in a transparent way and some training in techniques that leverage the uniqueness of the various social platforms.
Employees know the startup better than anyone else and if they are trained and trusted to be brand ambassadors, they are likely to do a spectacular job of it. Enterprises like IBM and Mayo Clinic have even created their own in-house training programs to help their employees tap into social media. There’s every incentive for a startup that may not be able to afford a marketing firm to tap into a resource that is likely eager to help.
Schawbel: What are some ways to manage a team while trying to scale a business?
Gilmore: Trust your employees to know how best they work, while also bench-marking how each is contributing to the startup’s success.
Management should be about empowering. Keep asking what your team needs to succeed to get over the next hurdle and how to optimize their individual talents.
Giving and inviting feedback is crucial to bringing the startup to scale.