Insights from Ling on Leadership at Startups

It’s the first day it really feels like Autumn and the connection I am most looking forward to is my meeting with Ling Koay, Chief Marketing Officer at Oneflow AB in Stockholm. Oneflow is all about digitalising contract management. Ling has graciously agreed to help me on my quest for a deeper understanding of leadership challenges at startups. 

After a few minutes, we realise we have much in common. Ling is originally from Kuala Lumpur, a place that has a special place in my heart after our time living there. Ling has been in Marketing for 18 years and with Oneflow for 3 years. She has worked in both established organisations and now at a startup. Our conversation flows and there is an immediate connection. Keep reading to see what deep insights Ling brings to the table!

Oneflow is growing rapidly, they more than doubled in one year’s time. The rapid growth, especially during a time when most are working from home, means that it is a challenge to onboard everyone to keep up with the allocation of responsibilities. There is a continuous need for building trust internally. 

A company’s brand is as much about the organisational culture as it is about the external brand. With rapid growth and new employees it requires enormous discipline to create the desired organisational culture. Ling tells me this is one of her passions and that she is constantly striving to develop the culture in a conscious way.

Delegation, a challenge for managers everywhere, can be an especially poignant choice at a startup. Developing new staff is an investment in the company’s future, but the short term urgency  for results often takes precedence. Ling says, ‘there is no place to hide and there is more accountability in a startup.’ 

As so many before her, Ling brings up the fact that, at a startup, priorities are constantly changing. For an individual to thrive in this environment, really requires flexibility and a love of change. Constant change brings with it the need to keep everyone aligned and working towards the same goals and, as a leader, delivering a consistent message. 

As we are nearing the end of our enriching conversation, Ling shares one final challenge that she finds unique for leadership at startups. Finding the right people. It is vital that each and every employee contributes and that there is a culture fit. Most startups are on a tight budget and need to recruit individuals who are purpose-driven and ‘part of the movement.’ 

Ling’s insights echo in some points what I have heard from others and indeed experienced myself. Other points are new for me and a lens into leadership at startups in 2020. Thank you Ling for giving me the chance to take a peek into your world!  

What are your reflections on these learnings? What are your experiences at startups?