How Solopreneurs Use Coaching to Grow Their Businesses

When solopreneurs (aka solo entrepreneurs) decide to grow their businesses by hiring their first employees, they undergo a dramatic change. Previously they performed all or almost all of the functions of their business. Once the first employees are hired, the business owner now leads and manages an organization, and suddenly faces a number of important organizational issues that a leadership coach can help with:

  • The vision, mission and values of the organization need to be made explicit so that they can be shared with potential employees so that they have a basic understanding of the organization prior to joining it. Vision spells out the aspirations of the business regarding what it should become, mission states what is done each day and values specify how it gets done.
  • What tasks can the business owner delegate to employees? How does this happen? How does it evolve over time as the owner does more managing and reduces their proportion of the day-to-day work of the organization?
  • What will be the regular cycle of meetings and communications between the business owner and employees? Weekly, every other week, monthly? The recurring cycle of key meetings usually provides the forums for short-term business planning, coordination, scheduling and managing employee and customer expectations.
  • How will the governance of the business work? The owner decides vs. collaborative decision-making? And what will be mechanisms of decision-making (procedures, formal vs. informal, centralized vs. decentralized)?
  • Hiring employees raises a number of basic HR issues: job descriptions, training, trial periods, compensation levels, when formal and informal feedback about employee performance occurs, financial incentives and/or awards (e.g. annual bonuses, possible profit-sharing, educational benefits). Obviously these issues are minimal with the hiring of the first or second employee, but the owner needs to anticipate how this HR component will need to evolve over time.
  • What will be the regular social gatherings where the owner can engage with the employees as a group? A holiday party? A summer barbecue? Periodic brunches or lunches hosted by the business owner? Over time, these events become important and expected organizational rituals which can feature important business announcements, celebrations of accomplishments and employee recognition.
  • What sort of organizational climate and culture is envisioned for the business (e.g. what will the norms be regarding the workplace, internal and external communications, pacing of the workplace, degree of teamwork desired, virtual vs. in person, etc.)? Organizational climate consists of the most palpable aspects of organizational culture (e.g. sounds, sights, smells, interpersonal behavior, modes and tenor of communications, etc.) and are the easiest to shape by a business owner who deliberately models desired behaviors for employees. Elements of organizational culture are usually much more challenging to quickly discern than organizational climate and operate at a deeper level. Organizational culture includes myths, rituals, stories, symbols and more. For example, here’s one helpful framework for thinking about the management style of an owner and the culture of their organization. Over time and given thoughtful leadership as well as consistent owner/leader behavior, organizational climate in a new organization can evolve into a more complex organizational culture.