One of my top employees, a veteran of startups and the startup investment worlds, frequently emphasizes with me the need for employees to grow as fast as the startup they’re working for. In his words, “if you want to grow at 40-50% then your employees need to grow at 40-50%.”
It’s a powerful point, but not nearly as simple as it sounds. The burden falls not merely to the employees themselves, of course, but to the startup company as well. As a CEO of a young company with ambitious growth plans, I am very sensitive to the need to provide the atmosphere needed to help my team grow. In some cases this may require financial resources, it usually requires time commitment, but it also may require things like mentoring and training.
It also means that we have to build our team smartly. By bringing on new team members with complementary skill sets, it is possible to help existing employees grow. This growth can occur by exposure to new ideas and skills, through the natural competitive process, or by team collaboration.
Of course, employees must be open to this sort of growth even if you make the resources available to them. The trick is to motivate and educate those who are willing and receptive.
And this must be an ongoing effort by the company. It can’t be merely lip service or a sporadic effort. Focusing on growing the human resource asset should receive focus just like growing the customer base does.
These challenges are especially acute in fast growing companies where employee responsibilities are constantly changing as circumstances and resources demand. It is not enough to merely grow, then, but also to evolve with the company’s changing needs and goals.
I know that I spend a fair amount of time thinking about how to best foster this type of employment environment and figure out what I can do to do my part. We have experienced considerable staff growth of late and making sure that we do the right things now will be critical to our success in 12 to 24 months.
It’s not an easy challenge, but it is one that all fast-growing companies must face up to.