Let's consider the following hypothetical (but all too real) situation: You and your friends have conceptualized a genius idea that has wooed the startup world. People love your product. As a result, demand has increased and therefore so has your need to answer the call. So, you scale your company.
The more you expand, however, the more difficult it is to maintain that startup feel, to sustain the uniqueness that once defined your company’s culture and climate. Now, as a larger company, accountability has increased, there’s an array of different personalities to manage, and you want to ensure each employee is happy, productive and is the right fit for the job role so you can maintain the right scale to match the current demand.
Sounds easy, right? Not so much. Here’s the dilemma: What got you “here” won’t get you “there” -- at least, not the same processes, or means by which your company produces output. However, the principles of trust, communication and teamwork will.
In reviewing the challenge that lies before you in terms of growing the company while preserving its culture, there are myriad intangibles to consider. To turn those unknowns into something more palpable, use the following guideline to gain a better understanding of what can be preserved, what cannot, and how you and your company can stay relevant:
1. Clean house
In other words, consider what needs to change. Generally speaking, the processes that govern organizational behavior must adapt as technology changes. What worked in terms of productivity three years ago is obsolete today for the simple fact that technology has changed, which suggests that the tools and systems used to manage people must change, too.
There are a plethora of project management apps out there that handle geographically dispersed teams of different sizes (Asana and Evernote come to mind). The variability of team location and team size thus determines the type of technology needed to not only stay up to date, but also manage people.
Whether it’s three people, 20 people, or 100, each team size necessitates its own individual management approach. Matching the inputs of human capital with their intended outputs requires different processes and management styles at each stage of the growth game.
2. Save yourself
No, not in the selfish sense, but rather identify what shouldn’t change. The principles that govern your brand and the values upon which you initially founded your startup are enduring beliefs that never grow old. Values and behaviors such as service, humility, communication and feedback only serve to improve the company and keep it alive.
When considering implementing new processes, ask yourself how they impact intangibles such as trust. In other words, will a new process build trust or deplete it? Why? If the answer is the latter, consider the longer term impact.
3. Merge the two
Now that you know what needs to change and what does not, ask yourself, “What new process will maintain the value of [blank] for [x] people?” In other words, if personal interaction has slowly weaned itself from daily activity due to sheer growth, look at your company’s current organizational processes (meetings, feedback sessions) and consider how to involve the larger population.
Scaling isn’t easy. It’s almost as if you’re starting from scratch because what works with 100 employees is completely different than what works with 1,000. Keep it simple by building upon the very elements that sparked your desire to start a business.