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Founder confession: what I’ve learned while my team grew 3 times bigger

Piotr Zaniewicz in

Blog/Founder confession: what I’ve learned while my team grew 3 times bigger

A rapid company’s growth is something that majority of business founders worship over. They think that after reaching this stage, the wave of success just has to pick them up further to the stars… But in reality scaling the processes while new clients are knocking on your door and dealing with all the organizational and managerial issues – is quite a challenge even for experienced founders/managers. So how founder should manage his team effectively?

While going through the rapid growth stage at RightHello, I’ve got to learn a lot. Some of the lessons I’ve shared in one of our previous blog posts. But today I want to dwell more on the topic of managing a fast growing team.

Our RightHello team grew 3 times bigger last year to support the ever growing business needs. Having right people organized in smoothly working teams, with no doubts, helps to avoid chaos when the company grows. But how to achieve it? How to manage your team effectively?

Be prepared

The rule that chases us from school times is as relevant as ever when running a business. Many challenges related to the company’s growth can be prevented if you tackle them strategically and in advance.

As for the team – think whom you’d need to hire before such need appears. Design the new necessary roles, think if the teams should be restructured because of this, how much time you’ll need for recruiting and training a new person, etc. Take care of all the internal processes first: scenarios for on-boarding, training schemes, clear description of responsibilities, tools and resources that the new person will need etc. Only then start the recruitment.

Less is more 

Your goal while growing a team isn’t just to hire more people, open more job positions. What you really should focus on is having enough people, at the right places, performing their tasks in the most effective way.

“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away,” as Antoine de Saint-Exupery said.

As new roles and functions appear, some old processes/functions/roles become unnecessary. Don’t hesitate to cut off the latter ones as quickly as possible. Otherwise, you risk hitting overload and loose your business priorities.

Some things that work perfectly for small teams (f.e. weekly stand-ups, each team member reporting during meetings, roundtables), will be a waste of time for big teams. Just compare what actually 1 h meeting mean for teams of different size: for a team of 5 people it takes 5 people-hours, for a team of 20 people it’s 20 people-hours! Plus such big meetings are usually not efficient.

What you can do is to keep meetings small, handle reporting by email or by using time-management tools or boards. If there is an issue that requires people’s collaboration, you can also use more effective ways and actionable ways to solve them: working groups, cross-functional teams.

When a big meeting can’t be avoided, handle it efficiently: appoint a moderator, prohibit using phones, make sure participants are prepared etc.

Hire experienced people

Try to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. When the company grows fast, you need to entrust entire processes, teams, departments to other people. And you’d better be sure they can perform in a best possible way, and with the least involvement from your side. This will release your time so you can take care of more strategic tasks.

“I will only hire someone to work directly for me if I would work for that person”, Mark Zuckerberg says and I can’t but agree with him.

Don’t neglect your “older” employees while hiring new ones

The growth can be achieved not only by hiring more experienced people, but also by letting your current staff grow. But this can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you want your current staff to grow with your company. On the other hand, you doubt whether they are capable of growing that fast.

So how to be sure that your current managers can handle a team of 20 people when he/she never managed more than 5 people? Only by evaluating them objectively. Try to keep all emotions and personal relations detached from this process.

And when you decide to put new more experienced people over your current employees/managers – communicate this properly. Involve them in the hiring process if possible, explain to them how this will influence their position in the company. And no matter what – continue helping your “older” employees develop professionally: provide regular 1on1 meetings, training, knowledge sessions to all your employees, etc.

Talk to experienced directors from your network

Being involved in one company matters for too long (or too much), can create a bubble effect and blur a clear vision on how to manage the team in the best possible way. In this case, some external point of view will be of great help.

Use your network for this. For sure you know directors, experienced managers, other founders (even if they work in different industry/market) who will be happy to help you and provide some tips how to manage a team effectively.

Hire slowly, fire fast*

Hiring new people is a big responsibility and you’d better allocate more resources on recruitment to hire right people. This investment will pay off in future.

This way you can avoid hiring employees who aren’t a good fit for your company. But if this happens – there is no point to beat around the bush, be too shy or too polite to say good-bye to such people. Any procrastination here will cost you money and eventually will just make the situation harder to handle.

Keep measuring

When the team is growing it’s essential to keep track on its performance. Pay special attention to it. Clear measurements for separate departments and projects will help you understand what’s working – what’s not, and react promptly if something goes wrong.

Managing team members effectively who work remotely

Nowadays, rare companies can escape having people working remotely. If not constantly, then at least from time to time.

Having remote working possibility is a big plus if you want to be a competitive employer on the market. But it’s also a problem for managers, especially when the whole company is in the speed growing mode.

When promising remote conditions of working, you should make sure you can organize it properly. Be prepared to take some extra care of such employees:

  • be clear with your expectations, goals, deadlines
  • establish effective communication channels
  • think how to manage team meetings efficiently (Skype, conference calls)
  • if they work in different time zone – make sure there are at least 3-4 working hours overlapping, so the team stays connected and the team members can rely on immediate feedback/help from each other during these hours

I hope these tips will be useful and help you avoid major slumps in team management during your company’s growth. If there are any questions, feel free to contact me (piotrek@righthello.com).

Good luck!

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Piotr Zaniewicz

Founder and CEO at RightHello. Believes that the most important validation of business ideas is to find paying clients. That’s when you know you’re going in the right direction.