At some point your startup will move out of the startup phase and you’ll find yourself ready to begin the scale up process that will transition you into a bigger business. And that’s a process that raises a lot of questions. What changes come into place when you go from a team of 5 to a business of 90 (or more)? And how do you simultaneously grow while staying true to the roots that set your startup apart in the first place?
According to a survey of over 3,200 startups by StartupGenom’s , 74% of failures can be explained by premature scaling. Don’t let that be you! It isn’t impossible to grow to be a company with dozens of staff members while clinging to the startup mentality and principles that helped you succeed in the first place. Here are a few things to guide you while you make the transition.
1. Automate what you can
As your business grows, you’ll find yourself spending more time doing the same things over and over. Training new people, organising documentation in the cloud, setting up your marketing, organising payroll….and on and on. During the scale up process, make the time to automate what you can to streamline your operations.
- Set up payroll
- Set up your internal training process
- Set up cloud storage, passwords and organisation
- Set up billpay
2. Start carving out more specific roles
In the early days, your team was most likely made of a handful of people who did a little bit of everything and had a lot of fingers in a lot of pies. A developer who is also an analytics person, graphic designer, customer researcher, marketer and customer service person? Only at a startup! With the scale up comes the opportunity to give your employees a chance to narrow their focus. Turn your marketing person into a marketing team, give your developer a junior developer to train, and start thinking about actually hiring in someone to do the things that start ups often skip – an HR person, an office manager, a recruiter, a etc.
While this is an important part of the big change, be clear that creativity and flexibility within roles is still something that you appreciate as a business. Don’t lose the startup fire within, and keep encouraging risk taking and idea having (while ensuring that a majority of time is spent on the priorities that come alongside whatever role an employee is in).
Jim Deters, co-founder of Galvanize said it well in his piece on scaling up for Entrepreneur: “You can’t expect people to “hit the ground running” and just “get it done” if you don’t have a clear onboarding process. Most startups neglect onboarding for far too long, but all eventually hit a point where new employees don’t just “get it.” The time has come to make a concerted effort to set your new hires up for success.”
By investing a training period in the beginning for all new hires that gives them a taste of all different aspects of your business, they’ll have the experience of a crash course in all corners of the company. Everyone in your company should understand what your business is doing, and why. And they can’t do that without your help.
4. Take care of your employees, in a way that means something to them
When the especially lean days of startup mode have passed, it’s time to start thinking about what makes your employees happy to remain a part of your business. What systems have you put in place that support the happiness, health and well-being of the people who make your company a success? Parental leave, private healthcare, cycle-to-work schemes, fresh fruit delivery – these are the perks that turn a job into a career and keep morale high, not to mention they are more likely to attract high-level hires in the future. Everyone benefits.
5. Get out of your own way
Don’t be the bottleneck in your own business. It’s not about you! In order to be truly scalable, your business should be able to function just fine without you. By purposefully shifting responsibility and oversight onto someone else, and taking deliberate absences from your business, you can force that independence, even when it feels uncomfortable. This is incredibly prudent during the scale up process.