Transitioning from start-up to scale-up is tricky.
‘What got you here won’t get you there’ wrote Marshall Goldsmith, the famous American Executive Coach. He was referring to the types of behaviour required to climb the corporate ladder, of course.
But the lessons hold true in every segment of business (and life actually, come to think of it) and it’s particularly true when you’re trying scale a start-up.
In the early days, it’s about getting s**t done quickly, by whatever means. Whether it’s registering the company, the idea, building the early product, finding your first customer, delivering the service by hand, and of course, finding money!
And this works well, as everybody mucks in, with a can-do attitude. The team is small, and culture can be easily maintained.
Then the concept starts to work, you start growing, into new segments, with new features and functionality, because you should keep building out the product, right? Well yes, as long as it doesn’t start to lose sight of the customer’s needs, and get bloated and complicated to navigate.
And you start hiring, quickly, to deliver the growth you’ve promised your investors.
But what of the existing team; the team that’s worked long days and nights to get you where you are now? Can they adapt and take you to the next stage? Well, the answer is more nuanced than a ‘yes they can’ or ‘no they can’t'. Ideally, you give everyone the chance to grow into their new roles, but time doesn’t always allow that.
You'll need different skills as you evolve as a company. Taking an idea from nothing to something takes different thinking to the one that helps the idea scale.
Which is why it’s important to recognise that, and find ways to tap into experience, whilst you transition from one stage to another.
So, think about augmenting your original team with more experienced players. People with sales, marketing, recruitment, finance, operations and data experience, in order to help accelerate the team's, and your learning. External perspectives can save you months of wasted time answering the wrong question.
Not only can it benefit your people, and save you time, but it can save you from making bad hires. If you’re a non-tech founder, for example, how can you be sure you’re making the right tech hires without advice from someone that’s been there and done it? The same goes for any discipline. The wrong senior hire can cost you a lot of time and money.
If you don’t know what you don’t know, that's an opportunity, but you need experience to help draw it out.
Whilst managing all of this, don’t lose sight of the most important thing - your culture. Pay attention to the pulse of the business. Ask people how they’re feeling during this time of change, because some people don’t automatically adjust to new normals; you have to encourage them along, but it’s worth it.