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The flexibility and empowerment that comes with working at a startup can be incredibly appealing. Setting your own hours, working from home, having the CEO’s ear and seeing your ideas come to life can be both motivating and exhilarating. But as a startup scales, herein lies the conundrum: How do you scale up and turn profitable while keeping your startup vibe when nobody knows how their co-workers take their coffee anymore?
As startups grow, what began as a tight-knit group of people often evolves into different departments that coalesce into their own groups. In this all-too-common scenario, communication can suffer since employees no longer know what everyone else in the company is doing. As startups expand, connections sometimes aren’t as strong as they once were, but growth doesn’t have to stifle the startup feel. From keeping beer stocked in the fridge and the foosball table active to offering stock options and hosting company off-sites, there are a number of strategies that companies can employ to keep the startup mentality alive when the startup begins to grow. As your business begins to flourish, try to keep these tips in mind.
1. Offer flexible work hours.
One of the biggest benefits to working at a startup is the flexibility that it offers and the work-life balance that this affords. If you want to hire the best talent, flexible hours are an important perk. If you haven’t already, try getting rid of the idea of the “9 to 5” employees (or at least toning it down). An employee option to work from home and the ability to set their own hours can attract top-notch prospects. As long as the work is getting done on time, it doesn’t matter when or where that happens.
2. Empower employee ideas.
One of the best parts of working at a startup is that your ideas are heard. As a company gets bigger, one of the downsides is that employees don’t always have a personal relationship with the CEO and lack the avenue to deliver their ideas to the executive team. Don’t give up this openness. Employees feel empowered when they can bring their creative ideas to the table and have their voices heard. Good ideas can come from anyone at a company, and CEOs should avoid becoming a faceless, monolithic figure lording over employees.
3. Build a community among employees.
At a startup, everyone knows everyone. But as the company thrives, teams often break off into smaller groups and communication can start to suffer. If you aren’t careful, this compartmentalization can cause your company to become incredibly fragmented and lose the openness that once was. To overcome this issue, facilitate channels for interaction so that people get to know each other personally. Host off-sites on a regular basis and create activities that encourage mingling between groups. Also consider having teams send weekly progress emails across the company so that the right hand knows what the left is up to.
4. Make the office a fun place to be.
Whether it’s offering delicious espresso or late afternoon beers, startups have very appealing work environments that employees want to engage with. These leisure spaces encourage much-needed breaks, which helps stimulate curiosity and boost productivity. As companies grow larger, keep these kinds of spaces abundant around the office.
5. Use growth to your advantage.
Startups are in business to succeed. No one is going to complain about the job security that growth can bring. Being profitable is a good sign that your business is working and it can help your company retain talent. Use growth to overcome the misconception that employees will be working 16 hours a day for a company that won’t be around tomorrow. This stability will attract top experienced talent, many of whom have kids to feed and mortgages to pay.
When your startup grows up, it doesn’t mean you can’t ultimately still offer the perks that made your company appealing to work for in the first place. Mimic the passion, flexibility and openness that has gotten you to a point of measurable success, and don’t be afraid to continue embracing that ethos.