Like starting a business, also growing a business can be challenging, with a never-ending to do list, limited manpower, the pressure of leading the way and only 24 hours in a day. Ultimately, growing a business is all about setting the right priorities at the right time for slick execution. After five years of growing Toucan Toco, we’ve collected some not so usual insights about this process to inspire you.
Grow your startup to 50 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? Here are some of our best practices.
1. Protect your tech team from interruptions
Tackle the dilemma between great tech support and great product development right away: dedicate one person from the tech team to provide great support so the rest of the team can deep work. Make the team take turns every week. This creates two wins. First, great focus equals great product and productivity. Second, since the teams are rotating, people will gain more knowledge over time, so there will be fewer information keepers.
Best practises on how to facilitate this, are to define clear rules about deep working and support, so that everyone knows when and how to interrupt. Also, use a Slack channel and Trello to take on the bugs the team finds and track results.
2. Organise monthly all hands meetings
You want to make your organisation transparent and have great communication between teams. An monthly all hands meeting is an excellent way to have people moving in the same direction and keep teams aligned on the overall strategy.
However, keep in mind that it doesn’t become an endless, boring meeting. So, use only one single Powerpoint, and allow every team 2-4 minutes to talk.
Our best practices regarding the organisation of the meetings: have someone take care of the logistics, like setting the audio/video for remote people and keeping track of time for every talker. Also, ask talkers to focus on speciﬁc actions rather than to talk about everything their team has done.
3. Define team objectives
The OKR method is about defining Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), where objectives are inspirational propositions and key results are measurable and tangible (quantitative is not compulsory). OKR are public, defined by quarter and made to focus teams, so they last three months, not less. Defining three per quarter is great, five is ok, but more is too many. Defining four key results per objective per quarter is the maximum.
OKRs are adopted by companies for three key reasons. It creates focus, alignment and acceleration. When well-set, this can generate a 10x result. So, if you want your startup to be transparent, liable and focused, you should be using OKRs.
4. Aligned autonomy
Give a vision and let the team execute it their way. To quote Steve Jobs: “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people to tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”
To achieve aligned autonomy, develop the why of your company, so people understand the vision. Define OKRs (Objectives & Key Results) at every level: company, team and people, and provide regular feedback to your employees.
This way, people are more productive and understand the big picture. They feel they are independent leaders, not sheeps. This builds trust between founders and the team.
Aligned autonomy demands from managers to see themselves as coaches who help team members grow. Their job is to diffuse the vision as much as possible through talks, 1-on-1, team leaders, documentation, and so on.
5. Develop employer brand
If you have to grow 20-30 people a year, you need to be top of mind. Especially in B2B, where you might find very few people know about your product. You can’t just hunt everyone or use agencies to do it. You either need word of mouth – or a goldmine.
Therefore, make your marketing team responsible for the employer brand. They know best when it comes to branding. They will help you build a clean web page, create great articles, videos, and so on. Make sure to distribute content on a regular basis – not all in one go. This production of content will expose you to potential applicants, they can feel your culture and understand who you are. Nurture the inbound applications for fast growth.
6. The logbook
If you write it down, you remember it. Much like a personal logbook, the logbook also has value for your organisation. Because people have short memories. They’ll want to know, for example, why they decided to do what they did. So, to have great transparency and communication inside your company, and people actually remembering why they decided to go a specific way, create a logbook.
This can be some kind of internal documentation everyone has access to. Employees should write their questions, problems and decisions in one place, and share important decisions to others so they can take feedback. You’ll find that by writing down why you decided to make a decision, it actually helps you make it even better.
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