The goal for any organization is to grow. But as you grow, how do you put processes in place that will allow you to continue to scale your operations, position yourself for success, and maintain your current culture and values? Wrk recently passed the 100-employee mark 3 years into our journey and hosted a Twitter chat entitled 1 to 100: Lessons Learned on Positioning your Organization for Growth. We were joined by business leaders that may have asked themselves these questions at one point or another.
For this chat, business leaders from Omers Ventures, Hootsuite, Postal, Growclass, and more responded to questions related to scaling your business in an effective and thoughtful way. Here’s what we learned:
Keeping your team aligned
Clear, consistent, and open communication ensures your team is moving forward in the same direction together. But as companies grow, channels can become overwhelming and muddied. A solid internal communications strategy is vital to ensure everyone stays on the same page and to keep business silos at bay.
Our own Director of Marketing Kelsea Gust shared that the only truly scalable internal communications strategy is one that evolves—what works best for a company with 10 employees won’t work for a company with a team of 100. She mentioned how at Wrk, we hold Weekly All-Hands meetings, but the structure of these meetings has changed every quarter over our journey. Another organization, Growclass, shared the following:
“As your team scales, it is important to remember you will have to slow down in order to speed up. Invest time into excellent onboarding, build systems that allow for solid cross-functional collaboration and consistently seek out feedback from your team.”
Another participant, John Thomas Lang suggested setting a “north star” metric that everyone can get behind, as it empowers every member of the smaller, individual teams to feel a part of the big picture, which is especially helpful during times of high work output.
Continuing to value your employees
Working at a 15-person start-up and working at a 100-person small to medium business are vastly different experiences. Both levels often require a different range of skill sets, opinions, and personalities. We next posed the question as to how organizations can ensure they continue to leverage and value members of their team who have been around from the beginning, support them throughout the transition, and ensure that their knowledge is passed on to new hires.
John Thomas Lang suggested including something like a “This Date in History” section of all-hands meetings. Teams can find successes and wins from years ago and have a more veteran team member walk through what made that successful and how it shaped today’s strategy. As well, Casey Rovinelli, Growth Director at Omers Ventures, said, “Bake the stuff that matters right into your internal processes… then bring that to life in a few key tools the team standardizes on to do their work. A clear process and a well designed Airtable base can go a long way towards keeping a team on track.”
Maintaining the small business culture
Research shows that employees from smaller companies tend to rate their company culture higher than employees from larger enterprises. What’s more, Startups are typically known for their innovation, efficiency, and agility. As companies scale, they risk losing these aspects to rigid processes and bureaucracy. We asked how companies with more than 100 employees can keep their culture and keep some of the traits of a small business.
Bridget Poetker, Director of Content & Brand at Postal, said one of Postal’s core values is “listen first, listen often” and that sometimes when there are more people in the [zoom] room, this can be forgotten as a priority, but it’s even more important than ever.
Jennifer Janson, Communications at Omers Ventures, said to make an effort to keep people empowered with genuine decision-making responsibilities at all levels. The more bureaucracy you can avoid as you grow, the better! Hootsuite also had this to share:
“Agility comes with trusting and empowering your employees. Build a work environment where an employee feels supported to create something that they see a need for.”
Kelsea Gust said that best practices aren’t one-size-fits-all and that organizations should resist copy/pasting processes at all costs. Start-ups often hire leaders with experience at much larger organizations to position the business for that level of success. But it’s critical to meet a team where it’s at and take it one process at a time. Omers Ventures made the point that "one size-fits all" usually fits no one. There is value in rinsing and repeating formulas or strategies that have worked before to save money and time. The key is to make sure it fits your organization's needs and is measured in the right way.
Short-term wins vs. long-term gains
The need for immediate results, acquiring first customers, and fundraising while also ensuring long-term success is a difficult balance to strike. As a last point, we talked about ways to organize to keep the present and the future in mind.
Hootsuite shared that it really is a balancing act. But when looking at your overall organizational strategies, try to build a 3-year plan. Within that 3-year plan, look at what short-term wins can be added in to accommodate the overall strategy as well. Jennifer Janson said that in order to achieve longer-term ambitions, you need to do the things that ensure the company exists! Short-term wins that ultimately align to a ‘north star’ are the ideal focus.
Setting our own sights from 1 to 100 to continue growth
So now that we’ve gone from 1 to 100, what’s next for us? Over the past 3 years, we’ve accomplished a lot. We want to use the lessons we’ve learned through our experiences. We continue to learn this through conversations with our partners. These will help us continue to build our Hybrid Platform and redefine work for all!