6 Communication Best Practices for Startups
Internal communication, if effective, has the potential to build committed teams and be the catalyst for change propelling your startup’s growth. If poor, it can lead to startup failure. In fact, it’s the failure to communicate that is the reason a lot of businesses have failed.
In the previous article, we highlighted the importance of the first hiring and a well-thought-out onboarding process. We talked about the need of aligning your communication to the org structure, and why you should let your team make decisions as a group.
In this post we’ll talk about practicalities:
We’ll take a look at some of the tried-and-tested communication best practices of successful startups and will present them in a form of tips for you to follow. Feel free to get inspired!
Strike the balance when using technology
Why not learn from those who have been there before? Kamil Rejent, the CEO of Survicate, a survey software provider, admits having experienced the adverse effects of poor communication due to relying on insufficient technology:
“Once our company started to grow we experienced some internal communication issues; we didn’t update each other with our workflow fast enough and that caused misunderstandings.”
The company relied solely on Slack to keep conversations going. The tool is fantastic, still, it failed to meet the needs of the company that has grown. The conclusion: Don’t trust the tools you use blindly. Stay on the ball and be willing to adjust your tool stack to the company’s needs.
Be careful of the technology overload, though. Too many communication channels are also detrimental to communication.
If you decide to enhance your tool stack, make sure the new software integrates with the tools your employees already use. Finding the tools that integrate with the others will also make your employees actually use them as they’ll blend with their current workflow.
Enhance your messaging with images
If you use Slack, or the project management platform like Trello, or Jira, make sure you enhance your messaging with the visuals. This is important especially if you collaborate across disparate locations.
Remote teams don’t have the luxury of being able to clarify things anytime, especially when working in different time zones. They need to be ultra-precise. Using pictures will spare you talking at cross purposes and will bridge the cultural gap that comes with the territory if you’re an international team.
We, of course, recommend Droplr. You’ll be surprised how efficient employing images to your communication can be.
Consider face-to-face meetings
This cannot be emphasized enough. Unless you’re a remote company, you simply mustn’t underestimate the importance of meeting face–to–face. It’s not a luxury only behemoths like Facebook can afford.
Regular meetings seem to work for Survicate, as well. The company’s CEO advises:
“First of all, schedule regular time to communicate with each other. It might seem a bit of an old-fashioned approach, but it works. One of our company values is to ‘respect the gang’ – talk to each other, criticize but respect others’ opinions.”
On top of encouraging discussion and being critical, the company goes even further, remaining ultra –coherent with its mission:
“We believe surveys help to identify the important issues. So, why not prepare a simple questionnaire, ask your team how they would improve the working environment,” Rejent continues.
For Survicate, surveys not only help collect the employees’ feedback, they are an integral part of the company, intrinsic to it. You can use them, or tap into your own mission statement to think of creative ways to communicate with your staff.
By doing so, you’ll build your company’s culture, inspire loyalty in your staff, and help them buy into your company’s core values.
Thank Goodness it’s Friday
Following Badger Maps’ example, have a regular open mic time on the schedule. TGIF (Thank Goodness It’s Friday) sessions help the company keep communication lines open. The sessions are the time to discuss the company’s current affairs. “I communicate anything from positive or negative news and updates to strategic or financial issues,” says Benson, Badger Maps’ CEO.
“We are a very transparent business, and no topic is really off limits in these meetings. Depending on how transparent an organization is, this can be a really effective way to regularly have a conversation with all your employees. It’s the best way to communicate clearly and build trust with your employees.”
Such open mic sessions are undoubtedly a fun way to keep the conversation going.
Magnet Media also sets up WEEKLY All-Hands meetings:
“We touch base on new projects that are kicking off, introduce new hires that will be joining the team, review special performance notes or highlights like the awards the company has won… and provide team leaders a chance to share news from the prior week with the larger company. It’s really enhanced the sense of camaraderie and culture -as well as improved accountability, across the board” says Cunningham, the company’s CEO and the Founder.
Let your team get to know you better
Another popular tactic, you may want to adopt is the AMA (Ask Me Anything) meetings. You can do them in two ways:
You can either set aside an hour every week for one-on-one meetings or, like Magnet Media, incorporate the AMA sessions into a larger company meeting so that everyone has the chance to hear the responses.
If you go for the latter, make sure you have a few questions prepared in advance so as to warm the audience up. They might need a bit of encouragement.
If you’re a remote company, consider streaming the session live. These sessions are a great opportunity to build cohesive teams in spite of disparate locations!
Both the AMA sessions and the open mic events make a great material for social media. You want to have someone from your team summarize what has been said and promote it on your social media channels. This will also give your team a chance to digest what they hear during the events.
Make the information flow
Everyone in your team has different background and expertise. Encouraging the staff to share their knowledge will not only motivate them as they acquire new skills, it’ll also help you uncover your staff’s hidden potential.
What you want to do is greenlight regular knowledge exchange sessions where your employees can teach their team members. Or, consider investing in a tool helping you centralize your communications.
This could be Atlassian’s Confluence to help you administer the documentation, or Sprout Social’s Bambu, which, on top of enabling everybody to get on the same page, empowers your staff to share your company content on their social media.
Let’s recap / Why you should care
Steering a business through the intensive growth stage is challenging and fascinating. If you’ve set off on a mission, you’re passionate about the idea you want to implement and the change it’s going to make. The last thing you want is seeing your business idea fall flat.
In the initial stage of running a business, things often get hectic and so communication is likely to go wrong or to be overlooked. But, success is always a team effort and successful teams communicate.
Having good communication practices in place will potentially safeguard you from failure, position your teams to succeed and you to make the most of the talent you have on board.
Last but not least, effective communication within your company will inspire loyalty and commitment in your team that feels they have a say. It’s bound to create a team that not only lasts but also becomes your brand’s ambassador. It’s, undeniably, worth to spend some time on developing a communication strategy that would work for you.
We hope you’ve found the piece useful and would love to hear what you think. Let’s carry the conversation on in the comments section below. Tell us what you think!