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Are you an entrepreneur or startup at the beginning of your business and product lifecycle? If so, you might think that it isn’t yet time to worry about cataloging your internal expertise, after all, you are still making it up as you go along. Right? Half right.
The truth is that there is no better time to start to memorialize your business processes and product development methods than from the very beginning. In fact, if you take knowledge management seriously from day one, you are less likely to find yourself in the position that you have to worry about losing key employees. And let’s face it, if you are a young business, you may find some of your talent will be wooed away by competitors or some other interesting project because, by nature, people attracted to startups are adventurous individuals who are often just passing through.
Knowledge management is as important for your young business as for a mature organization.
Knowing a few essential tactics for managing your expertise and implementing knowledge management tactics early and systematically can help you avoid playing catchup later.
Consider the following.
- People: Some of the best and brightest people who will ever cross your threshold are with you today, bringing their ideas to the party. Make sure you capture the nuances of their contributions to preserve the details of what you hope will become your competitive advantage.
- Processes: By implementing a knowledge management protocol in your early stages, you will have a system for capturing knowledge as it is developed, storing it in a way that it can be easily retrieved while you are working and doing it in a way that is user friendly as you onboard your first employees. When you have the technology and system in place upfront, you establish a culture of learning.
- Business Acumen: The habit of preserving your processes and methods from day one indicates to investors and early employees that you plan to stick around. It also demonstrates that you are forward-thinking.
I was brought on to an early stage startup to document its innovative software application that it hoped to sell to large corporations. The idea was very creative and had a lot of potential to streamline what was then a very cumbersome, manual process. The company founders had attracted some early stage funding from a public entity after undergoing stringent scrutiny. As I began to document the software for training purposes, I uncovered many serious glitches in the program that made it non-functional for actual customers. It turned out that the developers and early business partners could only run tests, but it would not work for in an external environment. Instead of writing software documentation, I spent three frustrating (and ultimately uncompensated) months uncovering the problems and working with the software developers to try to correct the problem.
Moral of the story: When the owner tried to write a technical manual for instructions, it couldn’t be done because the software didn’t work in the real world. Creating training and documenting processes can help you uncover problems before your customers do!
What You Can Do about Knowledge Management as an Early Stage Venture
Learn how to proactively think about knowledge management early in your business lifecycle because all successful businesses today are learning organizations.
Next Friday, December 16, I’ll be in Malvern, PA in Philadelphia’s western suburbs for a public workshop where we’ll be talking about how to determine your competitive advantages, work with your subject matter experts, and scan the environment to preserve your edge going forward.
If you are part of a startup or an entrepreneur, it would be great to see you there to add your perspective to the discussions. Register here.