How a Transition Checklist Helps Your Startup Expand

September 15, 2016

5:00 pm

If you can count the number of your entire startup team members with two hands, you have a small startup. Somewhere along the way, you’ll need to expand, and you probably won’t have much time to do so. I’ve got bad news for you: Of one study on 3,200 startups, 70 percent of those that failed did so due to premature scaling. It’s a real killer. Here’s a trick that can help.

The Checklist

The suggestion comes as part of a post by Joseph Walla, CEO of HelloSign and HelloFax. He listed a few lessons he’s learned during the harrowing experience of scaling up from ten people to twenty people. The expansion checklist is my favorite, and it embodies the most essential element behind expanding rapidly: keeping everyone on the same page. Just running all hands meetings, while useful, won’t do the trick.

Every time you make a personnel change, follow this format from Walla’s post:

Discuss reason behind the change
Review new job description
Discuss current responsibilities that will continue
Discuss new/additional responsibilities
Discuss responsibilities that will no longer be part of the new role
Discuss changes to decision making and ownership
Strategize handoff of responsibilities with incumbent
Discuss new manager (if applicable)
Discuss other changes to new reporting structure
Confirm when this new role will be announced to direct team
Confirm when to announce to company
Confirm official start-date of role
Schedule kick-off meeting to review goals, expectations, priorities for new role

Move Fast But Explain Everything

The transition itself should happen quickly, so that no one is stuck reporting to two bosses at the same time, or doesn’t know what their daily role is anymore. You’ll quickly hit a speed bump if you don’t follow every point in the expansion checklist. And you don’t want a slowdown. After all, you’ll have to run wayyy too many interviews in order to figure out who to hire, and those things suck up valuable time.



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Adam is a writer with an interest in a variety of mediums, from podcasts to comic books to video essays to novels to blogging — too many, basically. He's based out of Seattle, and remains a staunch defender of his state's slogan: "sayWA." In his spare time, he recommends articles about science fiction on Twitter, @AdamRRowe

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