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Who got you here won’t get you there: C-suite challenges of a fast-growing startup

Fast-growing startups can quickly outgrow their management

As businesses start to become successful and grow, this can often present many challenges to them. Challenges that can be just as difficult to overcome as starting up.

Challenges that many businesses fail to handle and that either limits their growth or causes the start of the demise of the company.

You need to have scalable processes, the ability to meet increased demand and possibly global distribution. You need to have the funding in place to help you finance all of this growth so that you can keep your business growing in line with demand and opportunities.

One of the biggest challenges and one that needs very close attention is that of people. I’m not talking about the adding of new staff to help you meet the increased demand and deal with customers.

I’m talking about management. I’m talking about having the right team in place to lead and run your organisation.

As companies grow running a start-up changes very quickly to running a small business to running a medium size business.

Running a company of 10 people is different to running one of 25, 50, 100 and beyond.

And you need to ensure that you have the right team in place, one that is scalable and won’t be a limitation on your growth.

Here are three tips from Chris Byers, CEO of Formstack, an Inc. 5000 SaaS company, who has seen his company grow 50 percent year on year and has had to address the challenges of the company outgrowing his management team.

Have constant conversations

As you start to grow the demands on your leadership team change. They often go from being hands-on involved to hands-off leading, directing and managing.

Not everyone is cut out for this. Not everyone is ready for this and maybe not everyone is looking for this type of role.

Chris said that “although having these constant conversations can at times be painful, it’s important to maintain good relationships with the people, being patient and supportive of them, giving them the chance to grow into the expanding role.”

But you need to be clear and honest with about how that is going, giving clear and concise feedback about what’s working, what’s not and what’s improving.

By taking this approach, people can clearly see how they are doing, and understand the challenges that they are facing. Chris said, “when it came time to make changes it came as no surprise to anyone, people were often not only willing but relieved to step into different roles to support the company’s growth.”

You have to give people the chance to step up or step out. If you treat people fairly and openly, it makes the whole process easier for all parties. That doesn’t mean there won’t be some tough or heated conversations, but it will help to minimise them.

Socialise organisational changes

As you grow the organisational structure often has to change to support that growth, new departments and new roles need to be added.

Growth can be scary; people can become threatened when the organisation they have grown with starts to change. Chris advocates socialising the changes long in advance of making them, especially within the senior leadership team.

Explaining why changes need to be made.

Get people to be comfortable with them before you make them.

Then when you make them, they will be more readily accepted.

Ensure good cultural fit of new hires

When companies scale quickly, more often not you need to bring in outside expertise.

People who are familiar with running the larger types of organisation that you are planning to become, such as CFO’s, CMOs.

These changes to the C-suite need to be managed very carefully, both the addition of new roles, but also new people.

Chris says that “you need to ensure that the people are a good fit culturally, both for where you are and also for where you want to go.”

He also says that “it’s good to bring people in and let the rest of the team get to know them before they take on the new role, and this also makes the acceptance much easier.

Creating a profitable business is difficult but getting it to scale successfully can be even more difficult.

If you follow the advice of Chris, it will help you manage some of the c-suite personnel challenges that often stall a company’s growth.

Gordon Tredgold

Gordon Tredgold is a leadership transformation expert ranked #25 in Global Gurus Top 30 leadership gurus for 2019. Over his 25-year career Gordon has led teams of 1000+ staff in Fortune 100 companies, delivered operational cost savings of $350m and transformed delivery (from <35% to 95 %) and service levels (from 57% to 99.7%). A critically-acclaimed author, Gordon's latest book, FAST: 4 Principles Every Business Needs to Drive Success and Achieve Results, was a finalist for Management Book of the year 2017. He is a regular contributor for Inc. Magazine, Entrepreneur, Forbes, Fortune and Business Insider and an international keynote speaker, recognised by Inc. Magazine as a top 100 leadership expert and speaker. Gordon works with organisations to transform culture, drive results-based leadership and rapidly accelerate organisational growth and performance.