You’ve never been more pumped — and confident — about the future. You’re certain of your customer-acquisition-cost, your sales pipeline looks AMAZING and you’ve got a realistic plan to scale up, up, UP!
So why do you have that awkward feeling that the other shoe is about to drop? When things are this good, something bad is just around the corner… right?
With this article, you can peer straight into that blind spot you fear. You can fix the ONE THING that could topple your scaling business, before it becomes an epic disaster.
There’s a war coming your way…
It’s the inevitable clash between the founding team and the superstar talent you start hiring. Two camps start to form.
Soon the divide will become your biggest frustration and distraction. Precious customer facing time will disappear as you mediate infighting. At a time when you need everyone energized and more focused than ever, things will start to unravel. Everything that you’ve worked so hard to build is at risk.
The founding team is the group that took the risk to join a fledgling startup. They worked long hours because they believed in what you were building together. They shared your vision when it was nothing more than scribbles on a napkin. Vacations — sacrificed. Weekends off — a luxury. You know everything about this group — their families, close friends, fears, aspirations. You’ve shared many meals together. These are smart people — scrappy problem solvers. You are loyal to this group who have been loyal to you and your ideas.
Camp #2 are the newcomers. These are also smart people. They come from bigger companies and have circled the block a few times. Experience has taught them that systems and processes are critical. They have the skills you need to move to the next stage of growth. You know it and so do they. They have a lot of good ideas and their arrival marks a change in how your company will run. Despite best intentions, you can’t remember the names of their spouses, partners, or children. You spend much less time together.
Leadership missteps now will lead to a divided company. These two camps will be at war with each other. The longer the war, the harder the healing. Some companies never recover.
There are three misunderstandings at the heart of this divide.
- Without help, your newest team members will not appreciate the early struggle. They will see all the mistakes made and problems waiting to solve. They won’t appreciate the fatigue that the team pushed through. Resource gaps from the past are now invisible.
- The special bond that developed between you and the founding team will be contentious. New team members perceive that special relationship as a threat. Talk will turn to the preferential treatment the founding group receives.
- Your new, experienced hires signify change. That change will become a rallying cry for the founding group. Their mission will be to rebel against new processes. Anything that restricts their freedom is counter to their DNA and hence an enemy.
Get ahead of these challenges and keep your growth on track with these four rituals:
1. Storytelling — When we meet new people, we tend to focus on surface information. What’s your job? Where did you go to school? Go deeper. Make storytelling a critical component of how people connect in your company. It’s our stories that make us human. Here are six ideas to get you and your team started.
- Tell me about your longest workday ever.
- Who is your closest friend in or outside the company? How did you get to be so close?
- What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made at work that you can now laugh about?
- What’s something that’s happened to you in the past that’s shaped who you are today?
- What’s been your most exciting or proud work moment?
- What past vacation most shaped who you are today?
Written or recorded stories are also critical. Find ways to share the stories of the earliest days of your company as you on-board new team members.
2. Shared experiences — Our strongest relationships are rooted in shared experiences. For startups, shared experiences are an everyday occurrence. As your company grows, creating these experiences becomes a necessity. They can be big — retreats, orchestrated company-wide activities, hackathons. Or they can be simple — small group dinners, community charity events, hikes. The structure is much less important than the sharing of a memorable experience.
3. Sharing your values — What do you value most? Even if your company has yet to define its values, the founding team knows what you value. They have shaped and lived those values with you. As your company grows, you need to become more purposeful in articulating those values. The founding team has a keen sense for knowing when new team members don’t share your values. You’ll know you’ve made your values clear when your team starts mocking you.
4. Calling out the divide — If your founding team is getting special treatment, own it. Let the broad team know about the deep friendships you’ve created with this group. Share the history. Invite the rest of the team into that circle. Acknowledge what is, and share your thoughts of how you would like things to be in the future.
Give it a try. I’d love to hear your success stories. If you hit some bumps, contact me and I’ll share more tips to get things on track.
I blog to help Founder CEOs on their journey from kitchen table to 200 employees. Be the first to receive new articles by signing up for my newsletter here.