For startup founders, 24 hours in a day sometimes seem too short. Manpower is limited but at the same time, there is an overwhelming list of things to focus on: actions, processes, strategies… Ultimately, there is only one solution: prioritize. Managing a startup and growing a business is all about setting the right priorities at the right time for slick execution. After five years growing Toucan Toco we’ve collected the best practices about this process to inspire you.
Grow your startup to 10 employees
As a tech startup, Toucan Toco designed a SaaS-solution for data storytelling to convert complex data into comprehensible visuals on which well-founded decisions can be made on every level. Five years after the establishment, the company has 80 people employed and the client portfolio is international.
So, how did Toucan Toco achieve this growth? We collected some not so usual insights from the very beginning of our startup, growing to 10 employees.
1. You can hire your co-founder
No matter how great your idea is, nothing derails success faster than problems within the startup’s management team: a study found 65% of corporate failures are attributed to this. Have you thought about this: there is no need to have the perfect founder team at the very beginning, you can actually take time to build a great team of associates. It took us almost two years. What you want is to choose people with multidisciplinary skills. And when you found the perfect match, use your capital to make them future leaders, co-founders or associates. Offer capital based on performance. The idea is not to give 5% or 10% right away but to make a deal based on the value brought to the company.
2. Only founders can recruit the founding team
The ﬁrst 15 people are supposedly “crazy” coming to a young and shaky startup, often taking a pay cut. When looking for staff, there is no one but the founders to provide a holistic view of the startup’s ambitions, objectives and values. Founders are more convincing and have a bigger ability to ﬁnd creative ways to attract someone because they have their hands on the money. Therefore, don’t rely on recruiters for first hires but use your own network to scout for people.
3. Share the value created with the team with equity
Working in a startup is an involving choice. You want the team to execute well. Like any other investment, the greater the risk the greater the reward. Therefore, share with the team when something great happens to the company. For example, give more shares to the ﬁrst comers and reward them with more the longer they stay. The result is that people feel more involved, are more loyal and stay longer.
4. Start small and act agile
As humans, we like perfection. So we tend to launch big projects and spend a lot of time on it. Even when we don’t know what the results might be. This is a big risk. Try another approach: as a rule of thumb always start something as small as possible. For example, you want to write a book. Don’t start with that, start with writing a blog post. Then write an article. If it gets traction: write the book. This way, you don’t invest too much time in projects meant to fail. Also, you can test, adapt and learn a lot more than if you had huge projects to work on, with better outcomes as a result. With small projects, you have clear steps that help you deliver fast and take feedback. Agile and lean methodology techniques helped us to achieve this.
5. Great focus equals great product and productivity
In a tech startup, you’ll experience the dilemma of spending time on great product development and great tech support for customers. Both of them have to be outstanding. But no one can do this A. at the same time and B. shine while doing so. In order to protect the tech team from interruptions so they can focus on the product, dedicate one person from the team to tech support and let them take turns. Since teams are rotating, people will gain more knowledge over time and there will be fewer information keepers. Meanwhile, define clear rules about interrupting the developers and use tools like Slack and Trello to communicate and take on bugs.
Image credits: Shutterstock/Aaron-Schwartz
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