‘Growing’ a Growing Company

Innovative, dynamic companies grow.  Yes, I know that’s a huge leap, but work with me here.

How do they grow?  There’s a plethora of ways to measure growth of a company – # of customers, # of partners, $ spent, $ accumulated, # of employees, brand recognition metrics (page views, net promoter, product imitation, etc), and so many more.  Let’s limit this particular discussion to people growth.

At what point does one invest in sales team, marketing, engineering, services, support, managerial overhead, etc?  How do you build out each of those groups and how do you know which particular roles within each team to staff?  I’ve seen companies hire in advance (build it out in anticipation) as well as companies hire just in time (do everything yourself until you just about break and then start looking for help while you break).  Of course, both have drawbacks.  Is there a more measured approach?

Some say, executive management and the board determine strategic direction and then the execution of that strategy determines what areas get planned.  For example, if you want to grow net new revenue, invest in your product development and sales engines.  Possibly give marketing a bigger budget, but only in support of getting the product word out there, not necessarily in heads.  But that’s just one example.  How do you really know?

I don’t think you ever ‘really’ know.  Still, people are forced to make these decisions.  After all, a lot of companies (young and mature) are hiring again.

Interestingly enough, I had a chat with one of my friends who happens to work at an HR firm.  He explained to me the importance of organizational development and how HR is supposed to be expert in identifying who is needed where (and when) and how teams should be built out to maximize the organization’s ability to deliver on their goals.

But what do you do in a young company where you can’t spend the time or money on organization development and proper head count growth plans?

I think this is an area where expertise comes into play.  People who have been there and done that are more likely to be successful in growing companies (VCs think so too…which is why they often replace the management teams of their portfolio companies with their ‘seasoned veterans’).

Guessing works too, I suppose, for those who don’t have that expertise.  And I’m sure sometimes it’s worked out well.  But I believe that can only be measured either just in time or after the fact.

Obviously this is something about which I have more questions than answers.  But, I look forward to learning about growing teams in my experiences to come.


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