Things change at 30
Like many small businesses that have moved from start up through to real enterprise, we have experienced the realization that what we knew to be true as a small team doesn’t always remain as you grow.
We’ve talked before about how critical hiring is to ensuring growth happens in the right way, but in the last 6 months, with Caravelo growing to over 30 team members, as a leadership team we have had to recognise quickly that nothing will be the same again. Whilst its exciting welcoming new faces (Iina, Bruno, Marion, Ana and David - welcome!) to the Caravelo team it's been daunting too.
These are some of the key realizations we are making and how are trying to ensure that we adjust as we grow.
Leadership isn’t only the founders responsibility
When it's 10 people standing up around 1 or 2 tables, leadership is straightforward because everyone is involved in everything and the values were easily shared. Getting to 30 people, with more process, with people having to silo more and take on less responsibility can lead to grumblings of ‘this isn’t how it used to be’ or worse, key early talent leaves.
It’s not just bandwidth, it's also experience and approach.
Starting with continuing to attract the right talent, getting the right talent focused on the right things and actively influencing culture is a full time role. Impossible for founders to do solo.
Utilizing leadership experience in new talent and empowering natural leaders within the team provides for career development as well as ensuring the culture solidifies as an expression of the broader team rather than a reflection of the founding team.
Not that it didn’t matter before, its just that now, with the entire company no longer able to fit around one table at a restaurant, the thought that goes into how to communicate needs greater consideration. More people means that standup meetings become more and more high level to keep everyone involved without wasting time. What now becomes important is one-on-one time and an investment of leadership hours in individuals.
This is about keeping people connected, recognizing contributions and keeping things personal: important when with more people, the connection might be more abstract than before.
What to communicate matters, too. Keeping everyone across wins, no matter how big or small, celebrating what's important at different levels of the business again reiterates connectivity to the business.
No room for waste
In smaller teams, in start-ups, the ‘get on and do it’ approach generally works: the idea of process is anathema. Hitting 30 though, without some areas of process is a sure sign of imperfect foundations and ill-discipline.
Introducing processes without turning into a dinosaur is the challenge.
The same with best practice. Ingraining discipline over exerting control comes down to communication: honest, with a focus on those who’ve been there the longest is the secret. The senior team becoming advocates for discipline rather than grumbling at change makes for much greater consistency as the team grows further beyond 30.
Reiteration and demonstration are vital
Both for the sake of the enlarged team and the market. When your team is 10 to 20 people, it's easy to hire on the promise of being a part of building a good company. Beyond 30 people in a tech environment, it's no longer good enough to simply say ‘we take safety and security seriously’:it has to be demonstrated and reinforced through certifications (ISO, PCI, ISAE, SOC, …) and 3rd party Audits.
PR becomes a requirement and not a nice to have.
Proactively reiterating positivity and making that stick in outside messaging is hard and does not come easy to teams used to instant recognition from early wins.
Having the discipline to push, having the creativity to make the most of everything is a necessity. That external recognition, especially from a future talent perspective and growing beyond 30, is vital.