Over the years and the course of the more than 40 startup events that AtomLeap has organized, we have been asked repeatedly how to balance fast company growth with effective communication amongst team members and productivity. While there is no one way to tackle this problem—in fact, any effective growth strategy should be tailored to the team and the solution on which it is working—we have decided to devote this week’s post to covering the basics of managing communications in fast-growing teams.
If you are a (group of) startup founder(s) and have recently raised financing or found other alternatives to grow your company, you may find yourself in a pickle. The bigger the company gets, the more diverse the opinions and work styles in your team, even when you recruit people with values and experiences that are in line with your company’s values. When you recruit many people in a short period of time, this problem becomes even more acute. You may find that bottlenecks in communication begin to emerge and that valuable input gets lost along the way, in someone’s email inbox or in a Trello board ticket somewhere. You may also find that the informal, but fast and effective, communication channels of yesteryear, when you were able to count your team members on the fingers of one hand, no longer work. So what to do?
To make a long story short, you clearly need an internal communication strategy. You will find a large number of online guides about how to devise such a strategy. They tend to include steps like a baseline assessment to establish where you are now; defining goals—where do you want to be?; and identifying the tactics, tools, and objectives that will take you there.
This need not be a difficult task, but it requires time, attention to detail, and patience to talk to people, understand their needs and preferences, and square those with your company’s objectives. We recommend that you set up a communication strategy task force consisting of a small number of employees that can conduct some internal research and consult with the management and staff in order to make sure that everyone on the team is accounted for. The next step would be to communicate the plan to the entire team, gather their feedback, and start putting the plan into practice. You should also make sure to include the important elements of this strategy in the training material for new hires, in order to ensure that incoming staff is briefed on how things are done in your startup.
In our experience, implementation is where the going gets tough. You may find that some team members have difficulties adopting tools and methods with which others have an easy time. You may also find that people’s health, personal, or professional circumstances change, which will require a change in their schedules, availability, and ability to communicate effectively. As for incoming staff, regardless of how thoroughly you brief them and how many manuals you share with them, they will likely need an adjustment period to learn the ropes of the job, how things are done in your startup, who is responsible for what, and how and when to communicate things based on how important they are.
But these are not insurmountable challenges, for they can be solved with a little patience, emotional intelligence, and—you guessed it—effective communication on your part as founder(s). The reality is that, regardless of how many manuals and strategies you prepare in advance—and there is such a thing as too much of a good thing—it is impossible to encapsulate all the expectations related to every possible task that your team will perform in one—or several—document(s). Therefore, we recommend that you arm yourself with patience and that you hold regular catch-up meetings with your team, both individually and as a group. These meetings will allow you not only to communicate important aspects like upcoming projects and gather feedback and ideas, but also to stay up-to-date on how the team is doing.
Founding a successful company is not easy. In fact, it is one of the hardest things one can accomplish professionally—and therefore one of the most rewarding. But with a lot of work, even more patience, and a bit of luck, figuring out how to effectively communicate as a team is likely to just be a bump in the road.
Is your high-tech startups expanding and you need help in effectively managing the process? The AtomLeap High-Tech Accelerator is here to help. We are looking to recruit startups for a six-month program starting in November. If you’re interested, go ahead and apply using the contact form on our home page.