golden retriever

Old dog, new tricks: Lessons your business can learn from start-ups

Not only could you have a happier workforce if your business adopted some of the working practices used by start-ups, but it might help you get ahead of your competitors. Even if you are an old dog, you can still learn new tricks.

There are simple ways to do just that, but don’t worry, none of them involve growing a beard, or buying a communal ping-pong table.

  1. Don’t be afraid to collaborate

workplace collaboration

 

Traditional businesses have a very ‘us vs. them’ attitude. Of course, start-ups can be competitive too, but they’re more open to working with another group of fresh-faced entrepreneurs to both see a benefit.

As a company, have you ever been presented with an opportunity you couldn’t capitalise on because you didn’t have all the skills or time? That’s where collaborative working can help.

How to do it: Simply approach a company that can help you solve those business-advancing problems and offer your services in return. Of course, you have to be able to do something they need, otherwise you’re just asking for a favour.

The benefit: Not only does it mean your brand gets to take advantage of an opportunity without the expense of taking on more staff or buying equipment, but it also allows you get a glimpse of how other businesses work. Perhaps they have internal processes you’d never thought of before, which you can then use to improve your own business. It’s a real win-win.

     2. Offer flexible and remote working

laptop and pencil

 

The concept of nine-to-five is laughably archaic in the start-up world of funky, open-plan offices. Millennials are all about flexible working: coming in late if they need to, working odd hours should it suit better and working from home or remotely when necessary.

In a traditional business setting, this often gets labelled as slacking. In small enterprises, it’s called making the best use of time. The bottom line is it can make your workforce more productive, despite what large firms think.

How to do it: For a more conventional company, it’s a case of changing the culture and making it acceptable to work flexible hours.

Just saying that it’s okay is unlikely to snap people out of their old mind-set. Encourage the more senior members of staff to lead by example and to urge those around them to follow suit.

The benefit: Not everyone is at their most productive between 9am and 5pm. Some are better in the evening, some at night and some early in the morning. More personal freedom to use this window of efficiency leads to greater staff satisfaction and ultimately, more work getting done.

      3. Communicate more

tin phone

 

Start-ups are, by default, small teams of people. That means communicating between departments doesn’t always entail emails and phone calls – it’s also a case of turning your bean bag chair around and having a chat. That’s a positive. Face-to-face communication is quicker, more nuanced and clearer than email.

Many start-ups are also keen adopters of instant messaging platforms. HipChat and Slack, for example, make it easy to keep colleagues updated, and to let them know about something while off-premises or out-of-hours because the platforms are available on smartphones as well as desktop.

How to do it: If your staff are spread over several rooms and floors, the simplicity of typing an email will always win over trekking across the office to talk to someone. But implementing ideas such as establishing a no-email day once a month or week can kick-start it.

We wouldn’t look at instant messaging as a replacement for emails; more like an augmentation. Choose your platform, check that its fits with how you work and roll it out. Don’t be surprised if it appeals to some, but not all.

The benefit: Two great positives of face-to-face communication: it can foster friendships between staff and is less likely to lead to miscommunication – how many times has someone taken your brief email completely wrong?

 

You don’t have to wipe out your workforce and employ a flock of recent graduates to feel the benefits of start-up working practices. Mutual benefits through collaboration, killing emails to promote face-to-face interaction and allowing unconventional working hours can result in a business that seizes more chances, benefits from friendly non-working relationships and completes more work.