Chirag Shah, CEO at Nucleus Commercial Finance, shares his tips for making the transition from entrepreneur to CEO in a business that is scaling quickly.
Anyone in my team will tell you that my favourite phrase is “it is possible”. This isn’t just an empty phrase of optimism – it’s a commitment to looking at every situation from all angles. This curiosity and willingness to challenge is central to every entrepreneur’s DNA, and a mindset that I feel strongly about incorporating into my role as a CEO, and instilling in those around me.
As an entrepreneur, you start with an idea, and a small team around you to help convert this vision into a reality. As the business grows, it’s critical that you continue to share and reiterate this vision with the wider team – and welcome input.
Set the culture
For this to work in practice, you need to instil a culture of entrepreneurialism that encourages new thinking in finding solutions to challenges. I always tell people to not just think about the cost of doing something, but the cost of not doing something, as they weigh up different options. This is a simple flip in thinking but often prompts bolder decisions, which have led to some of our greatest product developments. Go to the edge of the cliff without fear and see what happens! No rarely means no, you just have to approach the situation in a different way.
Commit to an open door policy
I believe strongly in an ‘open door policy’. I sit on the main office floor, so I’m constantly surrounded by the buzz of the sales team and hearing the conversations taking place with customers and prospects. Everyone’s days are busy, but my team really does come first, and I care deeply about engaging with them on a personal level.
As a leader, this is one of the hardest things to get right, but kick-starting an open and honest dialogue with staff makes for a happier and more productive team. This can be hard to do on an ad hoc basis, so I have recently formalised this at Nucleus with our newly instated monthly Town Hall meetings with open Q&A sessions. Whether it’s a request, an idea, a question that needs answering or a suggestion for how something could be improved, I encourage everyone to hold me and the senior team accountable.
Empower your people
It’s so important to give your team the freedom to explore their full potential. Don’t micro manage them. Your people make your business, but they can only do this if you provide clear goals and objectives, and the information that they need to be creative in finding solutions. This won’t work if you only celebrate the successes. Entrepreneurship is about valuing the activities which may not have led to the desired outcome, but which have delivered valuable lessons along the way.
Constantly analyse your market and competition
With a single-minded focus on your product or service and company mission, it can be tempting to become so focused on delivering the task at hand that you forget to take a step back. It is critical to remember to take the time to verify that your product has a purpose, and solves a real problem for a real audience. Innovation without clear sight of these facts is pointless – and not true innovation.
For me, one of the greatest challenges of being an entrepreneurial CEO is the constant balance you must strike. Between big picture thinking and realistic execution, adaptability and sticking to your guns, and pragmatism versus the courage to roll the dice and risk it all at the right moment.
I know I am naturally impatient, and I’ve been trying and failing over the years to rein this in! In general though, it’s the drive behind my determination to make quick and confident decisions, and my readiness to change direction if something isn’t on track to deliver the outcome I’d anticipated. I’m results driven, and when I don’t see this, I am constantly pushing myself and my team to ask why. What could we be doing better? It’s only by asking the difficult questions that we will stay ahead of the competition.