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How should startups foster communication as they grow?

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The Young Entrepreneur Council is an invite-only organization composed of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses. Read previous SmartBrief posts by YEC.

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Q. What is the best way to encourage my employees to communicate more regularly (and clearly) with each other, especially as we grow?

1. Create time for conversation

Make time for unstructured conversations. We do fireside chats in small groups where there is no agenda other than to talk about what is on people’s minds. In this setting, leaders should not only ask and answer questions, but also empower and encourage other team members to chime in. — Christopher Kelly, Convene

2. Create and maintain a shared lexicon

Among team members, there can be huge misunderstandings due to language alone. Create a collaborative document that highlights the main vocabulary everyone should use in reference to client engagements and the company’s product. That way, everyone can better understand each other. Engineers won’t feel alienated in marketing-related conversations and vice versa. — Firas Kittaneh, Amerisleep

3. Create a company intranet and dashboard

Install an intranet where employees can chat about specific projects, and the system will save and store those communications. Tools like Skype, where communications take place out of context, make it difficult to track specific conversations that are happening around projects, accounts, and campaigns. Tracking communications and using “@” mentions within tasks is key. — Marcela De Vivo, Brilliance

4. Challenge each other

We believe in an ecosystem that challenges each other, providing our team with greater responsibility and reasoning as to why their efforts directly relate to company growth. Creating an exciting culture where employees will hold each other accountable and understand camaraderie is key. This translates to open communication, efficiency improvements, and sets everyone up for success. — Dalip Jaggi, Devise Interactive

5. Make time for meetings

It’s important to stay on top of your team and what’s going on with their workload. Do they need new sales tactics? Is there something that the management team can be doing to help support them? Making sure to have open communication is your best bet. We also do fun activities after hours. With a growing company, you want to make sure everyone is comfortable with each other. — Jayna Cooke, EVENTup

6. Lead by example

If you want your employees to communicate regularly and clearly, then model the behavior yourself. Clearly articulate your own objectives and encourage positive feedback from your team, even on top-level initiatives. Prioritize progress over protocol. Celebrate the ideas that lead to great progress, no matter where they come from. This will help create a culture of open, creative communication. — Brian Smith, S Brian Smith Group

7. Encourage and enable

Encourage and even finance after-hours time with the team. And don’t involve yourself in that time. Buy a tab at a local bar or pay for a dinner at a local eatery, and encourage the team to have a night out and enjoy themselves. This will engender communication and improve camaraderie during the workday. Removing yourself from the equation means they’ll be more likely to communicate honestly. — Blair Thomas, First American Merchant

8. Don’t forget to break the ice

Our team is on the smaller side compared to most, so we have an office environment that flows and encourages open conversation. But as we add more to our team, we keep that communication by always facilitating team meetings and introductions to make sure that ice is broken and that there is a connection to allow for clear communication and healthy work relationships. — Leila Lewis, Be Inspired PR

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