04 07

What happens when you grow?

From company culture to work-life balance, here’s what to expect as your company gets big.

Teams

Hiring right, and not fast, is one of the most important lessons.

  • Communication challenges in small teams tend to be personality-driven. Communication challenges in growing teams tend to be process-driven.

  • A company’s first hires establish the culture. As the company grows, the culture can degrade if not protected. Growing businesses often enshrine their values for new hires, especially in far-flung offices.

Hands
  • Small companies are fun in part because of their cosy, all-hands-on-deck, close-knit atmosphere. By necessity, growing businesses, particularly with geographically spread-out teams, need to swap shouting across a room for the likes of Slack messages. However, the context and subtlety of in-person communication can be lost online.

  • Employee access to the founder may become more restricted, as layers of new managers come on board.

Operations

Risks from poorly-thought-through operations can quickly mount and dominate your radar.

  • Decisions at growing companies take longer – more thinking, testing, checking and double-checking.

  • Small mistakes by a £1m business are bad; small mistakes by a £1bn business can be catastrophic – yet such firms also have a bigger financial cushion to absorb a backlash.

  • More customers means more software bugs and customer-service complaints. Of course, growing companies also have more engineers and customer service reps.

  • As processes and products multiply, inefficiencies can clog up the system if not close monitored.

  • A growing company’s costs will rise for everything from servers to back-end platforms, the prices of which often depend on metrics such as traffic. It can take an awful lot of your time and focus for revenue to outpace costs.

  • It’s key to know when to hit the brakes in the short term in order to grow faster later on.

Personal

More than anything, YOU might be the biggest obstacle for your company’s growth.

  • Bad personal habits in a tiny company can become large cultural problems at a giant company.
  • You’ll need to become excellent at self-analysis and identifying areas for your own personal development. You might need to upgrade your hiring skills, for instance, in order to get the job done. Some founders find there are skills they simply can’t learn, and instead swap themselves out with a ‘professional CEO’ to run day-to-day operations.
  • A founder’s mindset needs to quickly adapt to the company they want to build, not the company they currently are. If you’re planning to build a £100m company, you should act like one today – not in five years.
  • Expect your lifestyle to change and your stress levels to rise if you don’t make a conscious effort to protect your time and mental health. Keep reminding yourself that growth isn’t an end in and of itself – a founder should enjoy what they do. Otherwise… what’s the point?