When my team was small, everything seemed simpler. There were only a few of us, so everyone had an idea of what each other was doing. I was only thinking about a few different personalities interacting together.
As my company grew, we naturally needed more help and began to build a larger team. I quickly realized there are several areas that good leaders need to pay close attention to so you can avoid business expansion problems. Consider these 6:
1. Roles and responsibilities
In the early days of a company, everyone has overlapping responsibilities. If not organized well, team members can frequently step on each other’s toes. As the company expands, those roles get more defined and specialized. This can be a good thing to avoid the overlap, but it can also cause frustration as peoples’ roles frequently change and shift around. Teams that didn’t exist before may form, and get re-organized in a matter of months. This should be done thoughtfully, and be clearly communicated.
Communication is critically important, and also may be the most difficult thing to scale during a period of business expansion. As there are more people and managerial layers, important details can get lost in the shuffle at meetings. To effectively scale communication, you need simple and regular processes each week. Having an All Hands meeting with a defined structure, publishing clear goals, being transparent about progress and doing status updates in writing are all good ideas to get started.
3. New managers
People who were individual contributors in the early days may be promoted to managers out of necessity as the team grows. This can be good for giving new opportunity to team members. It can also be bad because you have many new managers learning on the job in your organization. Some of these people can scale, while others clearly won’t which can cause business expansion problems.
You need to set clear performance indicators that define success as a manager. They may include specific metrics about a manager’s department performing well, and could also include survey feedback from their direct reports to confirm they are happy on that team.
4. Physical space
If you have an office, physical space can be frustrating to scale. You are constantly re-arranging desks and trying creative methods to fit more people. Eventually, you have to move to a new office to get more space, which is a huge hassle. Scaling physical space requires a good mix of strategy, forward thinking and grunt work.
5. All Hands meeting
In the early days, good leaders run a weekly All Hands meeting where they recap the biggest wins, concerns and important information of the week. This should not be a substitute for capturing important details in writing, but more of a “pump up” ritual for the team.
As you grow, people get busy and space gets tight. Many teams move to having All Hands every other week or even once per month to solve the problem. This makes sense, but be cautious: it’s easy to let All Hands go as your team gets larger, and that can really hurt a prime communication opportunity. Keep All Hands meetings alive, even on bigger teams.
6. Hiring A Players
Perhaps the most important, and difficult to solve, business expansion problem is hiring. As your team is growing fast, there is a greater need for more people to fill more roles. While in the early days it was easy to be picky because you were only hiring for a few positions, now you are hiring for many positions at once and can’t find enough A Players to fill them. You are in the classic hiring dilemma: “do I hire a B Player now so I don’t have to keep recruiting, or do I hold out for an A Player?” The answer is usually the latter, but it is tough to do.