Building a team in large enterprise companies is often a breeze. You have all of the luxuries: infinite resources, time, and large pools of qualified candidates. At Google, we always had a steady stream of graduates from top schools flowing into the organization at entry-level positions. When it came time to build a new functional team, I would simply pull from the group of internal all-stars we had at our fingertips.
In the startup world, things are different.
When momentum is building and things are moving fast, your company begins to feel the push that comes with an early rush of success. The call to scale comes soon after. Assuming you have all the necessary prerequisites to scale (a demand for your product and the resources to make moves), answering that call quickly can be a big challenge.
Managing Rapid Growth
At my current startup, Porch.com, we are in rapid growth mode. We are using the following principles to build powerful and effective teams while speed-scaling.
Know Your Numbers
If you have a team of nine and you hire one, that person is now 10 percent of your team! Hiring the wrong person in a group that small can be fatal. You still hand-pick your players and can exit bad hires, but so much rides on getting it right the first time. You have to be pickier in a startup because you’re moving quickly. When I am evaluating candidates, I weigh references and past success heavily.
Find People Who Fit
The people who thrive in startups are cut from a different cloth. Many just aren’t willing to burn the midnight oil to build something great and enduring. So, there are two major characteristics I look for when selecting candidates: a) Flexibility – Things change rapidly in a startup. Can your teammate accept that and live a lifestyle with frequent ups and downs? The startup grind is a lifestyle, not a job. b) Problem solvers – Part of working at a startup means there are many unanswered questions. You need people who can identify questions you didn’t know existed in the first place.
Build Organizational Structure
Anyone who has worked in a fast-moving startup has seen it happen: as teams grow and departments divide, your once swift and scrappy startup begins to surface some bureaucratic characteristics. The culprit is the communication breakdown that happens in a poorly designed organizational structure. Take a look at your company and figure out which departments are essential to bringing your products to life quickly. Find ways to tie them together. Build pathways with clear leadership so decisions can be made quickly and autonomously within that team.
Optimize Your Office Space
As much as I enjoyed the working from our CEO’s basement the first year of business, it quickly came time for us to move into our first “real” office space. We had several talented interns on the way for summer and we realized we needed a setup that would both allow us to maintain our scrappy culture and give us enough room for proper expansion. Try finding a large, mostly vacant space and negotiate terms that allow you to rent more square-footage as needed. You can maintain your lean efficiency while eliminating the need for frequent and costly relocation.
Speed-scaling a startup is no easy task — but it’s a good problem to have. It means your company has done something right. Keep building on your foundation. Get the right people in the right roles and give them the environment (figuratively and literally) to build something great.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Ronnie Castro is co-founder of Porch, a startup aimed at helping people manage and love their biggest asset – their home. Operations, revenue generating and customer acquisition experience with Google, Expedia and WildTangent.
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