[Start-up Series] – Building a function is like building a house

I have recently joined a light electric vehicle start-up that is focused on reducing carbon emissions and revolutionising last-mile logistics and food & grocery delivery. My responsibility in this start-up is the IT (Information Technology) department. The purpose of this series and this article is to document what I’ve learned, share it with others and to learn and reflect from these experiences myself as I look to start and run a business myself.

How do you and your function help the business?

I believe this question is important in any business but especially so in Startups because we don’t have the luxury of money (every dollar counts). When working in a business, having clarity around how you and your function provide value to the business is vital. It provides direction and guides the decisions you make around making progress towards that goal. For example: the more LEV’s (light electric vehicles – electric bikes in this case) we put on the ground, the better. Every action the business takes should be supporting or progressing this goal in one way or another. How does IT support this? Well, in a business there are essentially 2 main roles of functions. You are either 1. Generating money or 2. Supporting the functions that are generating money. So, IT is there to support the business operations (mechanics, accounts managers, etc.) that are generating sales by providing access to systems, onboarding new software that helps and makes their lives easier through leveraging technology. By keeping these ideas in mind, it helps with effective decision making.

Clear and concise communication consistently to make sure everyone is aligned

Start-ups move fast, goals change, responsibilities change, prioritises change. The only thing that is constant is change and when this happens, people tend to be on different pages. There will people who didn’t get the memo and still think last months priorities are the north star and others who are pushing and pulling in another direction for whatever reason. Regardless, its not effective to be pushing in multiple directions at once and that’s where effective communication is vital. I’ve given the analogy that building function is like building a house. You start with the foundation or the infrastructure then you start by building the core rooms or the business critical operations that only your function can do. Once that is functional, you start expanding into different rooms and upgrading and enhancing processes. As the leader, my responsibility is to define the strategy and the vision, prioritise objectives based on alignment with broader business goals then allocate key results to people and keep them accountable. From my experience, this is the simple part. The hard part is making sure that everyone is on the same page. Now, what does this actually mean though? It means, when another department in the business asks, what are your priorities for the quarter, everyone on my team gives the same response. It means communicating that other functions are working on and outlining explicitly how the work we’re doing is directly or indirectly impacting their work. It means, being explicit as to what is important and what is not, what to prioritise and what not to. Doing this, every stand-up, every-day. Communication can make or break a business so its pivotal to get it right.

Up next:

  • Start-up Mindset – early stage (we just need this to work once) versus growth-scale (it works once, but does it work 1000 times?)

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