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London’s startup scene is vibrant, exciting and often surprising (did you know that at the top of Startups 100 2017 ‘To watch list’ is an e-commerce mattress company?) So it may surprise you to learn that one of the toughest parts of building your startup isn’t the very beginning, but the point at which you scale up. Premature scaling is the number one reason startups fail, as a startup may grow so fast it can no longer support its own costs. As a partner to some of London’s most innovative startups we’ve placed key hires while supporting the businesses scale up strategy. Here’s what we’ve learnt.

1. Map the career trajectory of your staff – give them room to grow

In the initial stages of a startup, actual roles are less clearly defined as everyone pitches to help with everything – without this attitude the work simply wouldn’t get done and the startup would never make it off the ground. The first-hand experience this gives your early hires is invaluable and allows them to naturally grow into new roles and areas of the business they might not have expected to. In essence, this allows for organic and unplanned career progression; more of an exploration than an upwards movement.
As you find your niche and establish yourself, your business structure will become more rigid. By the time you begin scaling up, the roles you hire for will become more established as the need for everyone to do everything simply isn’t there anymore. While this will relieve the pressure from your staff in some ways, it will also give them less career mobility and less of a “roll up your sleeves” mentality. Before you begin your scaling you should talk to your early hires and discuss their career path, so everyone knows clearly where they can expect to be in the years to come.

2. Plan your team structure and assign responsibility

Working in the correct team size is integral to the success of a business. At the beginning of the startup lifecycle everyone works as one team and divisions are sometimes nonexistent, but as you scale the teams naturally separate out into their functions so they can work at maximum effectiveness. This can lead to losing the feeling of all working towards the same goal, with teams instead competing against each other. This is even more of a risk in large teams; evidence suggests that as a team gets larger than five that more time is spent coordinating chores and less on actual work. Make sure to mitigate this with clear team structures and chains of command. Remember that employees higher up the chain of command will be taking on more responsibility. It may seem simpler in the early days (Google co-founder Larry Page once got so sick of all the new reporting he fired his managers, leaving one executive in charge of a hundred engineers) but with careful planning your business will benefit from the additional structure and talent.

3. Retain your culture

The most successful startups create, build, and maintain the very best working cultures. This can be seen by the aura surrounding companies like Google, LinkedIn, Expedia, and LinkedIn. Every startup has a unique culture based on the personality of its founder and early hires, as well as the nature of the work and sectors they service. More hires won’t necessarily dilute your culture, but it will require more work to retain it, which is a crucial part of motivating your workforce and imparting belief in your product/service. Remember what made your culture unique and use it to welcome new employees – imparting your vision and belief on them will keep your culture secure.

Want to join London’s startup scene or discuss scaling your startup? Get in contact with us here.

We recently ran an event on corporate vs startup culture – you can view it here.