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How to Successfully Scale Your Business Want to grow your company with top people? Be proactive, use data and it never hurts to send a slice of cake.

By Keira Torkko

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Scaling a business is a little like straddling two worlds: you have one foot in the startup mode and the other in the maturing, scale-up phase. You're no longer a young startup fueled by an MVP solution, Series A funding and a lot of entrepreneurial spirit. Nor are you (yet) a blue-chip enterprise with thousands of dedicated customers.

Plus, don't forget that massive growth spurt that accompanies this scaling phase. While onboarding hires at lightning speed, team leaders must also wrestle with how to hold on to the company's innovative spark and tight comradery when dozens of new colleagues walk through the door each month. If your company is like Assent, requiring a wide variety of specialized expertise — figuring out how exactly to find and attract the best and brightest people to fill all of your new positions quickly and en masse is a significant challenge and opportunity.

It has always been difficult to find skilled technology workers. It's become even harder as all kinds of formerly "tech-light" companies now depend on tech expertise to digitally transform to meet customer demands in this heavily disrupted world. According to a recent ManpowerGroup survey, seven out of 10 employers reported talent shortages, with technology positions the hardest to fill.

At Assent, we have been in growth mode for the past seven years, jumping from just 25 team members (the word "employee" is off-limits here, as this term indicates working for somebody instead of a team) to 900-plus and rising. The growth has been swift: when I joined Assent only three-and-a-half years ago, I was Assentee number 300, and this year we're planning to increase our team by another 40 percent.

So, what has contributed to our success in scaling so quickly?

Related: 5 Marketing and Branding Tips to Scale Your Online Business

Those with aligned values will find you

If you want to attract the right people, you've got to stay innovative, create a workplace that's exciting and one that aligns with team members' values.

That's a lesson we learned when we evolved to stay on top of market trends. We know our clients require comprehensive supply chain sustainability data so they can make informed, big-picture decisions. As we've lived through the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increased call for environmental, social and governance (ESG) data and reporting. Companies want to — and must — show customers (B2B) and consumers (B2C) they're following global standards and that their supply chain complies with regulations from toxic substances to modern slavery. We've placed ourselves right at the intersection of two huge market trends by offering crucial supply chain data and transparency.

That has really resonated with our people, whether they're mid-career or just starting out. Recently, we onboarded 15 people and 14 of them said they chose to work with us, in part because what our organization does — supply chain sustainability — reflects what matters to them, too.

Think ahead and set the stage

To scale successfully, it's important to put systems in place before you actually need them. We spend ample time creating a clear description for each position, so we don't over- or under-hire. We also developed a well-structured multi-day onboarding process that leverages a range of learning methodologies. And this has helped us in many ways.

If you are seeking funding for your company, you will need to undergo comprehensive due diligence as part of the process. The reality is venture capitalists conduct a ton of research into a firm they might fund. If you're not set up properly in an area like HR, investors wonder what else you're not managing well. As part of our recent $350-million investment round, we needed to share contracts, people data, forecasts and budgets. Having this easily available demonstrated our expertise.

Related: Should You Scale or Should You Grow? (The 2 Strategies Are Not the Same.)

Culture is everything

Once you find great people, you don't want to lose them to the competition. Not only does hiring take time away from daily tasks, it's also expensive. While research varies on the cost of a new hire, estimates often exceed $6,000 per recruit. Our onboarding program puts culture at its core. We want our new hires to feel that first, even before they learn anything technical about their role. That means making sure they feel valued, which is particularly important when everyone is working remotely. Of course, when you hit 900 people, you have to start thinking strategically, but we care about special moments. Details matter. For example, on your first day here, we send an Uber Eats gift card by email. Lunch is on us. We make sure you have your equipment in advance and all your administrative paperwork is completed before your first day. We want you to focus on learning from the moment you join.

And for national chocolate cake day this year, we sent pieces of cake to 50 colleagues around the world as a surprise. We randomly make selections for special deliveries throughout the year until everyone has a turn. Then we start again. It's those little things that make people feel special and valued.

Complex positions need a simple solution

Hiring experienced professionals to cover a myriad of specialized roles is no easy task. Again, we look to the future and prepare in advance. Momentum builds on itself, so with our first wave of hiring we were really purposeful in bringing in incredible team members. Great people know great people, so now when we need to hire someone, we know who to consult first.

But great people also want to work with great people in a high-performing environment. We make sure team members have exposure to a wide range of colleagues as part of the hiring process. Once they see the caliber of the talent here, they're really excited. That's part of our culture, too — involving our people in the hiring process. It's another way that success breeds success.

Reward the right things

Some growing companies experience pitfalls when they reward an outcome, like closing a deal, even if the person has bulldozed others to get it. Or meeting a tight deadline although the team lead expected everyone to work weekends and evenings without offering thanks. If you want your culture to remain strong, you have to be sure you're rewarding behaviors that enable colleagues to do their best work — like those that generate joy and curiosity, two values at the core of our culture. To connect these values to day-to-day operations, we make heavy use of a peer recognition and reward platform. People can convert their points to buy gift cards, make a charitable donation, or give their points to Assentees. Our number one use of these reward points? Giving them away as a shout-out to others for great work.

With this system, we get insightful data. We can see which teams are engaging with one another. Are sales and marketing trading more points than usual? This data gives us indicators of what we should be paying attention to. We're a data company, so we track this information to see which teams are working well together and collaborating and vice versa.

Successfully scaling a company means having enough foresight to know that building a cohesive team will pay dividends. And with it being so challenging in the marketplace to attract new talent today, every touchpoint truly matters. Make it count.

Related: 15 Strategies for Quickly Expanding Your Business

Keira Torkko

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Chief Officer of People

Keira Torkko is the Chief People Officer at Assent, a leader in supply chain sustainability management solutions. Assent helps companies capture, track and report on such ESG topics as human trafficking, modern slavery, toxic substances, and anti-corruption, as well as reduce supply chain risks.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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