Moving Beyond Startup Mode: 5 Tips for Building a Solid Infrastructure

Running a startup can be insane, exciting, messy and a blast, but at some point your company has to grow up or fall apart. Here's how to set up a real organizational structure.

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By Matthew Toren • Dec 6, 2012

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Now here's a problem you either have or wish you had: Your startup is growing so fast that you need to hire more employees to keep up… stat.

But this is a process you shouldn't rush. The reason? Adding people is a big step and it's important to take stock and lay out a plan for how your company will be organized before hiring anyone else. Otherwise, the strain could, in time, cause sever problems that you may not be able to overcome.

Here are five ways for prepping your company's infrastructure for growth:

1. Consider your current employees. You'll need to first evaluate your current players and decide where they will fit in your growing organization. If you're smart, you've already communicated their potential slots to them as part of the hiring process. If not, you may be facing the challenge of telling your star salesperson that someone else will be your future sales manager. Still, preparation even late in the game will help smooth things over once you start adding staffers.

Related: 3 Tips for Taking Your College Startup Global

2. Get organized. Lay out an organization chart for the next phase of growth, and the phase after that. Include who will report directly to you and who reports to them. Try very hard to avoid those dotted lines that connect people to multiple other people. The cleaner you can make the connections the less likely you are to run into conflicts over time.

3. Set clearly-defined roles. Role ambiguity can lead to problems faster than you can fix them. Consultants who specialize in conflicts among departments and teams find that almost every time an employee conflict arises, unclear roles are the cause. Tidy up this element up front. Consider job descriptions, starting by having every current employee write down lists of tasks and responsibilities. If there's crossover or confusion, sit down with each employee or both of them together — ensuring the best arrangement of duties. Warning: this may not be fun. People tend to want to keep the juicy stuff and hand off the mindless tasks. It's your job to balance that for every employee.

Related: How To Stay Motivated in the Trenches

4. Solidify your infrastructure. Everyone will be happier if they know where they fit in your organization. As a startup, chances are people just stepped into different roles based on past experience, interests or maybe just free time. As you grow, that loose approach can lead to redundancies, confusion on who makes decisions or even which decisions to follow. Understand that your first plan may be subject to multiple changes. People's perceptions of their places in an organization can vary dramatically. It's time to straighten that sort of confusion out before you get any bigger as a company.

5. Establish boundaries. Where do your sales team's responsibilities start and end, and where does marketing take over? If your head of marketing is used to doing the financial analysis for a large proposal and your new head of finance expects to set prices you are headed for disaster. Draw the lines and walk through them with your team. Once again, you may find that these lines wobble at the start and that's OK. Over time you will see where they belong and work with your team to shore them up.

Related: 3 Creative Ways to Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

How did you manage your startup through similar structural changes? Let us know in the comments section below.

Matthew Toren

Serial Entrepreneur, Mentor and co-founder of

Matthew Toren is a serial entrepreneur, mentor, investor and co-founder of He is co-author, with his brother Adam, of Kidpreneurs and Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right (Wiley). He's based in Vancouver, B.C.

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