Scaling Through Talent
Nurturing an idea into a concept and later moving into action to give birth to a business, entrepreneurs usually start as hobbyists trying to share a new form of value. While rare, some businesses gather steam and take off. The entrepreneur then hires employees early on, and the business begins to take form.
Eventually, the company grows. In some cases, the company scales out of proportion. Growth and scaling are often confused. Growth uses the same proportion of resources. For example, if a coffee shop wants to grow revenue, the owners would either need to charge more, stay open longer, or open a second coffee shop. Scaling, on the other hand, is rapid revenue growth that involves adding only incremental resources. For example, a software company that manages time gains publicity, resulting in a 400% increase in users. Their revenue grew significantly, yet they did not significantly increase their workforce to enable that growth.
Growth can look like a simple arithmetic, while scaling is advanced calculus. You attempt to replicate what made you special. The catch is that you must do it on a massive scale with limited resources. This phase does involve human resources, but they must be hired and onboarded quickly and then make more of an impact than what would normally be expected of them. After the rapid hiring, you, as a leader, focus on maintaining the culture that got you to this point or change it to match that of the average company in corporate America.
Scaling’s mass infusion of resources with little direction creates issues that can negatively impact an organization’s long-term growth. When rushing to hire the right people, the easiest, quickest way to do so is to hire whoever is available. However, such employees end up creating more drag than lift. Increasing the risk is not having a development and integration plan for these new hires, leaving most of them to their own devices, thus causing them to deviate from the corporate mission. In this case, once you have finished scaling, you will be spending most of your time cleaning up the mess from a chaotic ramp.
I propose a phased approach where you first understand the culture of your organization and clarify what makes it special. Determining the behaviors and skill sets put you in a better position to scale and understand future needs. It allows you to design how to accomplish growth.
The second phase centers on effectively building the structure to scale through recruiting, onboarding, and training programs that ensure a smooth transition to productivity. Running a new company, you will want to develop a knowledge management repository to document how you got to where you are and what missteps you have taken. Lastly, you will want to refine the company’s operating model to bring on new talent and transition that talent into immediate productivity.
With the structure in place, you can begin recruiting and loading your talent pool. You should have a clear profile of the type of talent you need so that you can advance from passive recruiting to specific candidate targeting. Associated with this phase is building the brand through soft relationships and grooming connections for the long-term hiring process. Lastly, you must structure a hypersensitive interviewing process that efficiently vets candidates but still leaves a good taste in the mouth of those who do not make the cut.
New hires will begin to flood the organization and your development programs must perform. As you onramp and quickly familiarize new hires with the culture, the priority is that they integrate into the team. You do not want to replicate World War Two replacement troops who were kept on the outside of the team because they were not originals. For scaling to work, it is imperative that the new hires behave and act like founders. This process will help you intentionally evolve the organization’s culture through the new team.
Your last stage is to establish a corporate culture. You do not want to replicate every corporate culture that has grown into a major corporation; you want to be unique. The team must identify what made you special and codify it to build customized human resources and compensation policies that will elevate your organization instead of hindering it.
As a founder, your goal is to maintain what made you special in the first place. The ultimate paradox is that small businesses want to become bigger, but big businesses want to become smaller. The benefits of being smaller and the agility that goes along with it make an organization dynamic and powerful. Just because you hire more people does not mean you have to give away what made you special in the first place.
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