Kickstarting a company’s growth is tough, and unfortunately there’s no fit-all formula for success. In order to ease the process, BostInno is introducing “Secrets to Scale,” a series devoted to giving you tricks of the trade to take your business to the next level.
So, you did the impossible. You quit your day job, and embraced the 24/7 startup lifestyle. You clocked many an hour at your kitchen table, subsisting solely off of PB&Js, and instilled an idea-centric company culture to nurture your handful of employees. Maybe you’ve raised some seed, or maybe you’ve bootstrapped, but you have a number of customers and clients.
After your first taste of success, you and your co-founders are hungry for more. You want to scale.
According to Inc., scaling is the ability to grow rapidly and at a compound rate, compared to the typical two-plus-two-equals-four rate of growth that most businesses achieve. In order to scale, you need to recognize the need for change in largely three areas:
Building Out the Team
In the beginning stages of a company, you bring people onto the team who remind you of yourself, which, if you are an entrepreneur, are usually driven individuals with a comparable make-it-work attitude. Hiring is an intuitive, enjoyable process. Given that both you and the applicant know that you’ll be spending some quality time (read: 24 hours of the day) together, it’s basically like trialing friends. Though they may not have all the skills, they are well-aligned with the mission and vision, and you know that you can make it work and mentor them into the fitting role—though there probably isn’t an official title or compensation package to go along with it.
At some point along this path, the startup begins to grow rapidly and all of a sudden your team in undermanned. You need more people, and you need them now. The rate of hiring speeds up; rather than welcoming a few people on to your team each year, you bring on a few each month. You no longer have the time to nurture your new employees and train them, resulting in lower quality hires and subsequently lower quality hiring processes.
Now that your company is scaling–not just growing–you’ll continuously be hiring, so you need to get good at it.
Systematizing Your Work Processes
When you start out your company, the day-to-day processes are unsystematized and largely learn-as-you-go. But as you begin to scale, these need to be codified and clarified in order to help new hires get on the right track. As Inc. points out:
Making this shift is typically agonizing for the visionary founder-owner. While their young, vibrant business is growing…systems and processes are anathema. If instituted too early, systems and processes slow down the organization’s growth and staunch its creativity and flexibility.
When the company was in its nascent stage, the founding team needed to be flexible. Processes needed to be up for interpretation in order for the startup to adapt to the challenges that arose. Frankly, if the company’s processes had been routinized, you probably would not be in a position to scale today. Now, however, systems and processes need to be defined.
Pleasing the Internal Customers
Proving the above points, the internal customers indeed reference your employees. Back when your team was lean, vision-aligned and well-trained, delivering the product or service to your customer went smoothly.
That was also back in the days when one person represented what is now potentially multiple people within a department. There was a singular contact or reference within your company who took care of that step in the process. The team was happy and focused, the customer was happy and satisfied with your service or good.
When a company is scaling, this harmonious supply chain is often disrupted. Focusing on the needs of the direct customer is not enough for your company to function properly; rather, you must focus on empowering your internal customers–your team members. Employees must learn how to properly prep their deliverables before the product or service gets passed down to other employees along that chain. This takes respect, patience and more training.
Scaling is a complex stage, but keeping the above in mind simplifies the process.
Got your own tips for super-charging startup growth? Have questions on scaling? Message gillis [at] streetwise-media.com to let us know.