“Accept That Change is Coming – Whether You Like It or Not”

June 22, 2020

Know who you are, gather the right people around you, be able to adapt and learn from your mistakes: F10 mentor and change management expert Maren Schlieper shared valuable tips on growth and change with the startups in the F10 ecosystem.

“Culture is one of the core values of your company. How are you supposed to know where you are going if you are not sure of who you are?”, F10 mentor and growth strategist Maren Schlieper says. During the online session “Typical Challenges Faced During Times of Growth”, she shared her insights and know-how on change management and scaling with the entrepreneurs in the F10 ecosystem. Company culture plays an important role in recruiting sought-after talents, employee motivation and performance. It impacts the values and norms of an organization and influences financial growth, the level of risk-taking, and the implementation of innovations. Team members who fit in with the company culture tend to be happier and more productive. Their retention rate is also higher.

Maren is specialized in strategic development, project management, change management, leadership, and team building. She has worked for the digital insurance marketplace wefox for more than three years and currently holds the position of Chief Strategy and Change Officer. Before joining wefox, Maren worked for the e-commerce and coupon platforms Groupon and DeinDeal and the telecommunications provider Sunrise. She joined F10 as a mentor in 2018 and was the one-on-one mentor for Melior.AI during the fifth batch of our Incubation Program in Zurich. Melior.AI offers AI-based software for enterprises that enables frictionless end-user experiences. Contrary to most conversationalAI products on the market, the Melior.AI solution only learns from authorized sources, navigates complex dialogues, and handles non-cooperative users. Maren also supports the startups in the F10 Acceleration Program with feedback on their scaling strategies.

“Everything is about being prepared”

The growth strategist emphasizes the importance of planning ahead when scaling: “With business growth comes a need for professionalization. The way you did things before might not necessarily work anymore once your startup is growing. Take time to reflect and revise your growth strategy frequently. In the scaling stage, everything is about being prepared.” Define in which areas you are looking to grow and create a hiring pipeline.As the business is expanding, startup founders need to delegate responsibilities. This requires leaders to trust their employees. Hiring the best fit is one of the most important aspects of growing a business. Know what and who your startup is hunting for and state these expectations clearly in the job description. During the interview stress the type of personality you are looking for as well as the goals to accomplish. Consider personality, skills as well as experience when hiring and make sure new hires fit in with the company culture. A person who truly believes in your values and your company is invaluable. Shared values have the power to transform individuals into tightly knit groups whose members trust each other. Aim for a good mix between experienced professionals and fast movers. You might want to work with freelancers first to stay more flexible and be able to adjust your hiring plan if necessary.

“After careful planning, execution is the second mountain to climb”, Maren explains. In the execution phase, she considers the ability to react to change and to adapt to new circumstances, one of the most important traits of a successful scale up. Growing a startup should be a constant circle of building, measuring, and learning. “Accept that plans change and adjust. As kids, we wanted to be princesses or firefighters, but most of us ended up in different positions. It is crucial to be open to adjustments along the way.” People with adaptability skills are never discouraged by failure. They are continually learning and willing to take calculated risks.

Mistakes are an opportunity to improve

Another decisive characteristic of successful entrepreneurs is how they deal with mistakes. “Making mistakes is not a shame – not learning from them is!”, Maren states." The change and growth expert strongly advises acknowledging responsibility for mistakes. “Many people try to hide their missteps and errors instead of addressing them. This increases the probability of the same mistake happening again. Own your mistakes and never blame other people for your shortcomings. Entrepreneurs and leaders with a growth mindset consider mistakes as an opportunity to improve.” The next step is to take time to reflect and learn from missteps: analyse the causes and implement measures to avoid repeating actions that led to the current situation. Monitor the efficacy of the chosen tactic and share your lessons learned with others. This strategy to deal with mistakes is a chance for both personal and organizational growth.

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