5 Tips for Maintaining Startup Culture When Growing

May 10, 2015

2:00 pm

As a startup begins to find success, growth of the company is sure to follow. This unavoidable growth means more people, more customers, and more money. Holding on to your startup culture, however, can get lost in the rush to expand and to meet the increasing demand.

So, as your company starts to grow, how can you retain that startup culture it began with while still keeping up with the continued call for new business, people, and products? Taking heed of these five tips can keep your company focused on not only successfully growing but also maintaining the culture that made you, you.

How to Effectively Handle the Change

It might at first seem daunting when faced with a situation of necessary change. The most important thing you can keep in mind during this time is that embracing change and being prepared to adjust to it is what will keep your startup culture goals focused. The strategies listed below are intended to help you maintain those defining philosophies you carefully cultivated when you started your company:

1) Grow Your Staff, but Keep Teams Small

Your startup began with a small staff and small departments. These departments were so small that the lines where one department ended and another began were sometimes unclear. This kept internal communication at the forefront of every project your team undertook.

Now that you’re growing, it’s important to hold on to this part of your company’s culture. Consider keeping your departments small by building multiple project-based teams within each department. These teams can be self-managed but must still be able to work with the rest of the department on larger projects.

2) Always Be Open

The open communication fostered by your company’s small departments kept everyone on the same page during your formative years. The staff and the managers were on the same level, creating a linear company with blurry lines between managers and employees.

Leave the communication between departments, staff, and managers open as your staff expands to take on more people. Consider facilitating regular meetings and discussions among teams and departments. As a manager, be a part of the team by directly involving yourself in, and contributing to, projects. Encourage the use of online collaborative tools. An open door policy will promote interdepartmental understanding, thereby helping to maintain that smaller feel from your early days as a startup.

3) Offer Opportunities for Continued Learning

When you hired to grow your startup, you looked for people with a wide range of skillsets. You wanted people who could not only do their assigned jobs but who were also interested in learning, expanding their knowledge, and becoming more valuable to the company.

As expansion becomes imminent, your hiring standards shouldn’t change. You should therefore nurture your staff’s thirst for continued learning by providing a budget to fund continued education, be it online or on campus. Encourage continued learning by offering time for it in the office, even if the learning is free or unofficial. These practices will eventually lead to a team that is highly skilled in the areas that your company needs most.

4) Plan Community Building Events

During your years as a startup, you could easily hold events for your staff, sometimes on the fly, such as cookouts, outings, and parties. These activities promoted team building and allowed your employees to get to know one another in a social, non-business setting, further promoting that small feel.

To facilitate a successful adjustment as the company grows, continue to offer these social opportunities. Make plans for weekly lunches, quarterly outings, and holiday parties. Join a kickball league. The better your employees know each other, the better the communication, and the smaller the company will feel even as the staff population grows.

5) Hire Strategically

Your team is what defined your early years as a new company. You hired those first employees because they shared your vision and had a drive to make a product worthy of the customer base you wanted to target. Your team consisted of people that had similar interests and goals.

Because your employees are really the heart of everything you do, you should never compromise on your hiring standards. Continue to hire for teams to match not only personalities but also skills. You can, as a larger company, choose to focus on hiring for mastery of skillsets rather than the diversity that was so important in the beginning. Remember, however, that some of the best employees are skilled in a variety of areas or are interested in many different subjects.

In a small company, there is no room for weak links and now that you are expanding this fact is even more pertinent. Continuing to hire with this point in mind to promote the creation of a team that thinks beyond the capabilities of their own job roles and instead about the capabilities of the company as a whole.

The Key Takeaway

While the above list is certainly not comprehensive, these five tips are key to weathering the storm and avoiding the chance that your company loses the characteristics that make it such a great place to work. Be willing to re-evaluate yourself and your teams as your company grows and changes; everything must be able to work together toward the same end.

The most important thing you can do to focus your efforts during a period of massive growth is to stay goal-oriented. Think about the above tips alongside your company’s cultural goals on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly basis. Dividing up your goals into smaller, easy-to-digest chunks makes focusing on and fulfilling the end goal much more likely to happen.

At the end of the day, having a clear end-goal will allow your company to expand intelligently, while focusing on business and cultural goals. You’ll be able to get the people you need with the skills you desire and still keep that startup feeling you began with.

Erich Noack is a content writer at storEDGE, a leader in the self storage technology industry. He enjoys helping to develop unique strategies for web-marketing and the opportunity to advance small businesses through the use of language. He lives in Kansas City with his wife and a cat.

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Erich Noack is a content writer at storEDGE, a leader in the self storage technology industry. He enjoys helping to develop unique strategies for web-marketing and the opportunity to advance small businesses through the use of language. He lives in Kansas City with his wife and a cat.

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