Building the Team.

Now that you’ve hired your new employee(s), it’s time to bring them into the fold of work.

Onboarding your new employee is the next critical step in their success. People are our biggest investment. You’ve won them over with your transparent and value-driven hiring process, now you need to ensure that they know they made the right decision.

Some larger organizations have very prescribed onboarding programs. Bootcamps, workshops, orientations — what you call it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you should go deep in process, policy, and culture (oh, and people too).

That’s really what onboarding is – diving into each of the key areas we’ve been discussing and building a foundation for the new hire.

The goal of onboarding is to set up your new employee for success: to build on the reason you’ve hired them and ensure they understand the unique things your organization brings (people, process, policy, and culture) to be successful.

The goal isn’t to rapidly get through a set agenda and get the employee contributing as a productive member of the organization (yes, we do want that too). The goal is to teach them the things that makes your organization unique (people, process, policy, and culture) and ensure when they do start their work they carry those values forward.

Onboarding also has a strong emotional component that can’t be forgotten. Your new hire is going through changes as well. They’re about to meet new people, perhaps be in a new city, and are about experience a rollercoaster of life changes as they take on their new role. You have to keep this in mind as you embark on this journey with them. You are playing a supporting role to them on their journey just as much as you are playing a guiding role.

Let’s talk about a few things with onboarding:

  1. Structure and format of onboarding
  2. Learning versus doing
  3. Integrating new hires into the team

As we jump into onboarding, remember what I’ve said all along. Your organization is unique and there’s no “one size fits all” to the 3Ps + C (people, process, policy, and culture). You need to shape and sculpt these topics into what works for you and your organization. This doesn’t mean you don’t need to do these things — a scaling organization will find a way to make them happen. That’s what will deliver you success.

Structure and Format

How long you commit to onboarding someone is more a question of what information you have to convey and how successful the new employee is at absorbing it, vice a magic number of hours or days it takes to complete onboarding.

Companies need to build in flexibility (and possible rework) into their onboarding plans. Yes, if you have a two week process that’s well scripted to bring in the millions you’re hiring, great. You need to ensure information isn’t being simply thrown at new hires — that it sticks so they can add value and help you scale (more on that below).

The successful company is going to invest time in onboarding and refining what the onboarding structure/format look like as the company evolves.

Quick aside: I favor doing as much of the administrative work in advance (that’s reasonable) to handle. New hire paperwork, health insurance information, etc. If not possible to do in advance, that’s all a day one checklist.

An aside to the aside (process here): I’m a huge fan of new hire checklists. This includes items the new hires needs to complete (with POCs for questions) and also items the company needs to complete. I’ve had great success in breaking them down as follows:

  1. Before day 1: Items like: employment papers sent out, equipment ordered, accounts created, etc.
  2. Day 1: I always call out the high priority items that need to be addressed the first day. Completion of employment paperwork, meet and greet with boss, welcome email (from boss), etc.
  3. First week: Items that aren’t top priority but are still important: get access to additional systems, read the handbook, complete trainings, etc.
  4. First month: Items that need to be tracked but aren’t as time sensitive: complete any other trainings, any additional HR items, etc.

I keep the checklist to items to be actually completed, not goals. This is a tactile checklist to ensure the employee (and the team) know what needs to happen to get the new hire squared away from an administrative side. I’ve used everything from Trello cards to Google Docs to Basecamp to manage a checklist for new hires. Each new hire gets their own project/checklist and off we go. Assign actions and make it the new hires responsibility to follow-up and get things done (also forces them to get to know new people in the process).

Back to the full onboarding experience.

I like to find the balance between: small group experiences, meet-and-greets with key people in the organization, and individual learning activities (areas where the new employee can be on their own learning or partakein career enrichment).

Small Group Experiences

Small group experiences should be with a mix of members of the new team and non-team members. This is about exposing the new employee to the people in the organization, facilitating network building, and building confidence that it’s okay to reach out and ask for help (no one likes to ask for help in a new job — we need to make it the norm that it’s okay to reach out to people you don’t know/barely know for support).

This is the main opportunity to broadly expose the new hire to the vast arrays of work you do before they get pulled into an intense focus on their daily work. Embrace this opportunity to showcase the diversity of your organization and highlight the way your culture has driven your success.


I recommend also including dedicated “meet and greet” times with key people in the organization. Aside from the supervisor, who is the champion of ensuring the new hire’s success, who are the other key individuals in the company that the new employee should meet?

In smaller companies, I’ve had these meet and greets include the CEO/founder where we had a great conversation about the company history and intrinsic values. It has also included key department heads or other partners that the new employee will be closely working with throughout their career.

With each of these interactions, they key is to not only bond and get to know each other — it’s to reinforce the values your company holds true (culture). The veteran employee should take time to demonstrate and highlight the ways they exemplify the values of the organization in their role/department. This will continue to reinforce the culture you’re working to build and show the new hire that this is the way your organization runs.

Individual Experiences

In addition to small groups, ensure you have a series of individual experiences allow introverts time to regroup, reset, and process a bit. Some people need a moment to reflect and capture what’s going on and what they need to focus on next — building this time in is essential.

Successful individual experiences include:

  1. Review company processes/policies (e.g. read the handbook, review SOPs, etc.)
  2. Complete required training (e.g. social media etiquette, OSHA compliance, etc.)
  3. Position-specific training (e.g. AWS certifications, software training, etc.)

It’s about finding a balance between structured and unstructured time. There is no right answer as it varies employee to employee. Key is to maintain some level of flexibility.

If you have too much unstructured time, you’re going to find new hires may get bored and wonder if they’re adding value. Too much structure and you’re setting up the precedent that your organization runs non-stop without a time to think.

Ensuring Value Add

In the end, you are going to take them through a series of experiences that instill the items that matter most to your organization, know the people, comprehend the processes, ensure they understand the boundaries (policy), and can contribute and execute the culture you are growing.

Some organizations have instituted a mutual checkpoint at the end of onboarding to check: 1) does the new hire want to stick with the organization (they get a free pass out no harm/no foul — some companies even pay you to leave), and 2) did the new hire successfully “complete” the onboarding process. For the company, this could be a skills test to ensure they are able to perform the job based on new training; however, it’s often a culture test to ensure they understand the culture the company embodies and will hold it true as they move into their new role.

You need to weigh what’s best for your organization. I like the value a checkpoint brings. A wrong hire isn’t going to add value to your organization and this is a fair point to see if your hiring process netted a successful hire or if you need to refine the process a bit (and have the new hire transition on). You also need to look at this as an opportunity to learn from the onboarding process you’ve created and see where you need to adjust it. Some organizations will have the new hire repeat the onboarding until they pass (or give you 3 tries to complete). This could be both a skills pass and a cultural pass. This person is now a representative of your company – you need to ensure they’ll represent you well.

Whatever you decide, you have to hold true the principals and goal of onboarding: to prepare the new hire for success.

Learning v. Doing

I strongly believe most organizations plan for the balance between learning and doing during onboarding. So much onboarding time is spent on being lectured on history or process that we forget the value of jumping in and doing work.

People learn in different ways; and many people receive a lot of personal (and professional) value from learning by doing in a safe environment.

I’m not talking about going through hypothetical roleplaying activities or computer-generated scenarios (though those may be fair starting points for demonstration). I’m talking about actual real work that will get the new hire exposed in a safe environment.

Startups and mid-size companies with customer support elements have a leg up in this area. A good balance of onboarding should include doing rotations in customer support. I can’t think of a better place to:

  • Understand the concerns and feelings of the customers/users;
  • Scan across broad topics of the product by learning about the offerings to resolve issues;
  • Dig deep in pockets of the organization to meet new contacts as they learn; and
  • Start learning about the company culture and putting it directly in to practice.

Some organizations rush right into “the new hire must be instantly productive.” I agree they need to be productive; however, we need to strike the balance between learning and doing — in a safe space. A safe space where someone is there to guide them, positively correct them, and also be open to having hard conversations.

I’ve had a longstanding philosophy as a program manager (PM) that the best thing I can do for a new PM is to have them take on some seriously hard projects. That could be hard customers to deal with, complex issues to solve, etc. The key is – push them to learning new things and ensure you, as a leader in your organization, provide a safety net and a feedback loop to that employee as you go.

As the new hire is onboarding and balancing learning and doing, there needs to be a concerted effort to integrate them into the team.

Integrating New Hires into the Team

Some teams are newly formed around a certain challenge: we’re hiring 10 people who’ll come together to solve New Customer X’s problem. Other times, and the more common case, is the new employee(s) are joining existing teams.

Just as your company has an overarching culture, each team brings unique dynamics that make it what it is in your organization.

Management (and leadership) need to make direct efforts to welcome and engage with new hires. When new people join – celebrate it. You have invested a lot of time and resources to bringing them in — now make it known that the new employee is here and share it with the company.

On a simple level, send out an email welcoming the new employee to the team. Share some personal bits about the person and a bit about what they’ll be doing to bring your company to the next level. This isn’t only reserved for senior leaders or managers joining your organization. Make it the expectation for all new hires. Each of them has a story and will be contributing to your organization’s success. Create a culture where you are people-centric and encourage others to promote collaboration and network building.

Some companies may, COVID aside, take new hires out for lunch with the team or do some team activities the first week. I’ve also had CEOs in small/mid-size companies take new hires out for dinner where they can share the vision of the company and build personal connections over a meal (as noted above).

Whatever you decide – make it a part of your process and culture. When new people join, we do X because of Y. For example: when new people join, we host a welcome lunch because we have an inclusive and welcoming culture.

Takeaways from: Building the Team

  1. Find the balance in the onboarding experience – between mixing up the structure to giving time to the new hire to process.
  2. Ensure the onboarding experience is adding value – the goal is to reinforce your organization’s approach to people, process, policy, and culture.
  3. Establish an administrative checklist to get the mundane tasks tracked and managed.
  4. When able, find opportunities to learn by doing. Create a safe space for the new hire to contribute to actual work (beyond scenarios) and learn how the 3P+C exist in practice in your organization.
  5. Focus on opportunities to integrate new hires into your organization; understanding that the company and each team have bring a unique culture to the table.

Now that you have your future employee hired, they’re onboarded and integrated into your team, we are going to talk about what happens when your organization is scaling and your people are not scaling with it. Next time we’re going to tackle having those hard conversations and more when we discuss Facing People Challenges.

To be continued.

Hiring your Team.

Building a successful organization starts at the beginning – with the people who you hire and trust to drive your organization to the next level. Deciding how you go about hiring your team members, what skills they should have, and how to integrate them into your company can be a real challenge.

Anyone who tries to sell you a special formula that looks years in advance and prescribes who to hire when is crazy. There is no magic formula. Your business is growing and changing. With it – the people are growing and changing. You may think you have a good grasp on what will happen next; however, businesses that plan too far in the future have always been challenged by their lack of flexibility in the present.

You may disagree, but consider this:

  • your business may need to pivot. Today you’re focused on B2B sales — tomorrow you’re selling to the education market.
  • let’s not forget about how a global pandemic greatly rocked the business world and caused some of the largest organizational pivots of all times.

Your business is going to change. Your organization is going to change. The people in your organization will change. Each new person you bring in adds to (or challenges) existing dynamics (we’re talking culture here – more on that to come in future posts).

I want to continue to reinforce to you – it’s through your actions (or inactions) that your business will either scale, or won’t. Your ability to be reactive, proactive, flexible, structured, nimble, and descriptive all at once will enable you to deliver compounding success.

Let’s talk about four actionable areas where you can start making a difference when it comes to hiring your team:

  1. deciding which positions to hire and when,
  2. the hiring process,
  3. onboarding new hires, and
  4. integrating new hires into your team.

Many elements of hiring and personnel are situational to a company. As we walk through hiring, I will share some situations that aim to mirror (or come close to mirroring) your individual company. If you don’t see yourself directly here, that’s okay. There really is no “one size fits all” for hiring.

Variation is okay and encouraged. Flexibility is key. You need to mold and adapt to your organization’s cultural and the environment around you.

I can’t stress this enough. Uniqueness is what makes your organization what it is today.

That said – there are lessons to be learned and what you can do to maximize your return.

Remember – people are often our biggest expense, but let’s change that moving forward: People are our greatest investment.

Hiring takes time and you should be ready to devote time to it (people are an investment). I’ve interviewed (and received offers) for jobs were the total interview time was 30 minutes. It blew my mind that after 30 minutes someone would think I have the skills and culture fit to be successful at the company and add value. On the flip side, I’ve had interview processes drag on for 6-8 weeks with multiple interviews over that period. I started thinking – what are we doing here? My time is valuable, your time is valuable, we need to come to a decision.

There’s no magic answer for how long it should take. If your gut says it’s working out and it’s been a “short” time – have someone check your work and make the offer. If you’ve been going months through a process and haven’t made a decision – something is wrong. You’re either a “no” on the candidate and unwilling to make that call, or your process is broken (or both).

One overarching note before we dive into the specifics: move fast. Good candidates won’t wait and decisions shouldn’t be hard. If you’re on the fence about a candidate — it’s a “no.” Seriously – it’s a no. You should be easily convinced they are “the one.” Like I noted above – respect the candidate’s time and they’ll respect yours. If it’s not going well, be honest and cut it off. Don’t hide behind a corporate theory that you’re going to wait until you’ve made an offer to someone else and then not tell the other candidates until your new hire arrives. Be transparent with candidates from the start. You will want the same level of transparency in return.

When to Hire

I’m a big fan of the Basecamp’s philosophy:

Hire When It Hurts

You need to decide the threshold for the pain your company is feeling. Do you stay awake countless nights unsure of one thing: how you, and your small team, are going to handle the massive growth your company is facing right now?

It has to hurt – and it has to hurt bad before you bring on your next employees. Every new person you bring into your impacts the core and foundation of who you are (as a company), what you do (and don’t do), and how you get it all done.

Strategic hiring is key. If you’re expanding into new markets, changing a product line, or venturing into the unknown; don’t hire right away. You should invest time yourself, or via advisors/existing employees, to shape the path and define success. If you go in blind, you’re in for an uphill battle. Through feeling the pain of exploring and knowing exactly what you need you can begin to understand the person you’d bring in to fill the role.

The hiring process can be overwhelming, time consuming, and exhausting. As I stated earlier, take what you find below and customize it for your organization. You may find your organizational culture weighs heavier in one element of the hiring process than others.

The Hiring Process

Let’s take a few minutes to talk about process here (the second “P”). We’re starting with people because they’re the most important part of our organization. Process comes next as our people create, follow, and destroy (yes destroy) the processes in our organization. The right processes at the right time can have exponential returns on our ability to scale. The wrong processes can destroy any chance we had.

For now when we’re talking about the hiring process, we’re not talking tools – there are plenty of tools to assist you with running hiring pipelines, evaluating, etc. I’m talking about the people-side of the process you will take your future employees through to determine if you will hire them.

There are several great models for hiring out there: Amazon has the bar raiser test; Netflix hires for talent density; and when I was at Socrata we used a standard’s bearer test.

Here’s the key: each of these companies had a methodology they used to determine whether the person sitting in front of them (or virtually in front of them) has what it takes to scale the organization.

Before you walk into a hiring decision, your company should have a solid understanding of how you’ll make decisions — before you’re looking at candidates in front of you. You’re going to go through a process (akin to what I outline below), but at the end of the process comes a decision. You need to map out how you’ll make a decision up front. Will you have a standard’s bearer who can veto a candidate who doesn’t align to the values of the company? Will you defer the sole hiring decision to the hiring manager (not recommended)? Or something else.

Whatever you decide – decide it upfront and stick to it. You’re going to end up in a losing situation if you change course mid-hiring process and abandon the way you make decisions. (Pivoting the process itself is something else that may be done for the right reasons, of which there are many.)

A good starting point is to ask: how will they add value to our company? (It’s the same question I ask myself when I look for new opportunities — how will I add value to this organization?) If you can’t answer that, then you shouldn’t be hiring them.

When it comes to interviews, there are two primary elements that you should evaluate candidates for: skill and culture.

Evaluating for Skill

It’s as simple as it seems — can they do the job.

The stagnate company, the one who won’t scale will say a simple: yes, they’re qualified and has the required skill to meet what we need.

The scaling company goes well beyond that, often embodying some of the philosophies of Amazon or Netflix. Not only does this candidate have the skills to do this job, they will make us better at what we are doing. Amazon would say: each new hire needs to be above average for where we are today; the bar we have for our employees is constantly going up with each new hire — raising the bar each time.

Start your hiring process with interviewing for skill. Often times it’s easier to test for skill and you can quickly weed out people without the skills you need for the position. This can take many forms – written test, automated computer tests, oral assessments, etc. It all depends on the role.

As I noted above, move quickly. Those who don’t pass the skills tests – move on. And do the right thing here — tell them that you’re moving on quickly. There’s no need to drag it out. They are people making decisions on their future (just as much as you’re making a decision for your company’s future).

I’ll caveat this with – if someone is a legit fit for another position, pass them over to the other team and let them evaluate from there. Company’s do a horrible job sharing resumes, interview notes, etc. No one trusts anyone and it always comes off as an internal competition. Frankly I never understood those companies. It should always be is: what is the best for the company. If this candidate is best for the company but wasn’t best for your role – do the right thing and see it through for the right role.

Back to interviewing for skill; target about twenty percent of the total interview time. That’s how much you should spend on skills assessment (unless the role is highly process oriented or a repeatable/transactional role — than spend a bit more time). You need to define how much time you’re going to invest in the person and that should relate to the value they’ll add back to the company.

Two quick examples on this.

A window washer will add value; however, it’s a very transactional role. There is only so much a window washer will be able to do to scale your organization. Yes, if you’re a window washing company and the candidate can wash 2x as many windows as another, that’s great — however, there’s a max they’ll hit.

A software developer on the other hand can add a lot of value in an organization and is highly investable. A great software developer can help automate processes, reduce waste, and enable a company to scale.

The remaining time is spent on culture.

Evaluating for Culture

This is where the rubber meets the road; it’s also the hardest part to evaluate in an interview.

Remember what we said above, if you’re on the fence, it’s a no. That holds true here now more than ever.

The most common mistakes in evaluating for culture are discounting the red flags and playing them off as something else. They’re not something else; they’re red flags. If you’re not bold enough to act on them — your company is going to be crushed when it tries to battle them during employment.

So many organizations bring on the wrong people. The sad part is they knew they were bad going in; however, there was some underlying feeling they’d overcome the short fallings.

How companies evaluate for culture is often a very gut feeling (as much as HR doesn’t like to hear it — it is). More and more companies are leaning towards a value-driven approach to hiring. That is, how does the candidate’s views align to our values as an organization.

Let’s walk through an example (remember, you customize for your organization).

After passing the skills evaluation, the candidates should meet with a series of employees (yes – multiple) and be evaluated for alignment to the organization’s values. (More on defining organizational values when we talk about culture.)

Each of the employees should look for one or two values to gauge alignment on a simple scale: high, medium, or low. Just because someone has a low alignment to a particular value doesn’t rule them out (thought it is a discussion point for sure). High alignments across the board are fantastic.

Let’s take one of Amazon’s 14 Leadership Principals:

Are Right, A Lot Leaders are right a lot. They have strong judgment and good instincts. They seek diverse perspectives and work to disconfirm their beliefs.

An interviewer may ask something like: “Tell me how you brought in outside perspectives into your decision making process on a recent project. How did you know to trust or not not trust the perspective shared with you?” It’s simple but gives you something to start peeling back. It should be inviting them to share a story – and related to the role they applied for at your company.

Right after an interview ends (and schedule time for this), the employee should promptly document the interview results:

  1. How did the candidate align to the value being evaluated? High, Medium, or Low.
  2. Narrative to document the reason (this is also useful for the upcoming discussion to refer back to).
  3. Should we hire this candidate? Yes or No.

I respect some people need to reflect on the interview and think about it how to interpret how it went. I promote capturing initial thoughts immediately after the interview, including value alignment (#1) and narrative (#2). The employee should complete the full evaluation by the end of the day/next morning at the latest.

Once everyone has interviewed the candidate (hopefully in a 1/2 day or full day session) and document their feedback, it’s time to make a decision.

Making the Hiring Decision

After the interviews are completed, the hiring manager brings everyone together for a discussion, going around the room to share the cultural evaluation (remember – they already passed the skills evaluation and we’re only focused on culture now), and decision to hire/no-hire. This should be done the next day while the interview is still fresh in everyone’s minds.

To recap, your schedule should look something like this:

  1. Skills interviews
  2. Decision to move on to cultural interview
  3. Cultural interviews (ideally in one day — more senior roles over two days)
  4. Decision meeting the following day.

In the decision meeting, if it’s a “no” all around, you’ve come to a decision and it’s time to move on to the next candidate. Do the right thing and tell the candidate promptly — there’s no need to revisit.

Quick side note on why not to revisit. When you end up revisiting, most of the time the group is going back to justify a “yes” when they know it’s a “no.” I’d argue you’re a “no” at this point and there’s nothing good that will come from changing your minds. That includes if upper management comes back and says to hire — you were a “no.” You should be able to clearly articulate to your management why it’s a “no;” because that’s the culture your company embodies.

On the other hand, If it’s a “yes” all around, great! Let’s push this one step forward: the scaling company will take time now to help identify the growth areas for the new employee and how you will ensure they are successful when they arrive (more on employee development in future writings). Congrats! You have yourself a new employee. Call the new hire up and share the good news!

Most of the times though, it’s a mix of yes’s and no’s. The group needs to have a candid discussion that closely examines the strengths and challenges the candidate would bring to the organization. All the cards have to be put on the table — remember, company comes first (over departments and individual needs).

You need to go back to the decision making process you outlined even before you started going down this path. What was it that you held true and what does it mean now that you’re at that decision point?

If after a productive discussion with those around the table the decision is still unclear, then it’s a “no.” If a measurable part of the team believes that it’s a no-hire, something is going on. End the process and go on to the next candidate.

Don’t take the bait and try to do a follow-on interview. You are now highly biased and the questions you ask (and the answers you hear) will only point towards the decision you’re looking for in the end. Don’t do this. You need to stand behind your process and move on.

In the end of hiring…

you will have a new team and refined understanding of what it means to hire.

Will you miss on some possible good hires? Yes, you might. Will you find the perfect employee? You should.

Desperation to hire will result in a bad culture in your organization. You are making educated and informed decisions to advance your company forward, to scale.

Takeaways from: Hiring your Team

  1. Don’t just hire to hire; know why you’re hiring and what the employee will do to add value to your organization.
  2. Have a plan on how you’ll make hiring decisions – what will your organization value most. Don’t change course mid-hiring cycle.
  3. Spend ~20% of time hiring evaluating for skill and the remainder on evaluating for culture.
  4. There are no “maybe’s” in hiring – there is only “yes” or “no.” If you’re on the fence – it’s a “no.”
  5. Don’t revisit “no’s” or offer follow-up interviews. Bias has set in and you’re not going to succeed in a positive hire.
  6. Capture areas of growth for new employees based on the interviews.

Now that you have your future employee hired, what comes next is a critical part to their success and yours: onboarding. Next time we’ll dive into that and more when we discuss building the team.

To be continued.

The First “P.” People. An Introduction.

People are the most important part of your business: both today and in the future. The people in your organization are the face of your company to clients, vendors, and more importantly — future employees. The people you bring into the organization will help you create the legacy you’re dreaming of and the means by which success can thrive. They are your company’s biggest asset, and will most likely be your biggest expense. Nothing you do in your organization will play a more central and lasting role than hiring and growing a successful team.

People will also be the biggest drain on you, both mentally and emotionally as you scale your organization. Yes – people are exhausting. You need to be able to not only ask the hard questions about the people in your organization, but make the hard choices. Not all people you bring in will be successful. The wrong employees will drain your company’s resources, it will affect your customers, and it was destroy your culture. How you respond will make or break your success in scaling your organization — and for some surviving as a company all together.

Do you have the right people?

  • If you do – great. It’s time to maximize the role they play in your organization.
  • If you don’t – what are you doing to change that?

As we talk about people, we are talking about unraveling the challenges, pitfalls, and frequent oversights we make on the pathway to scaling. We’re going to dive deep into all things people and answer that key question we asked above (Do you have the right people). Over the next series of posts, we’ll discuss:

  1. Hiring your Team: arguably the hardest part of your work will be selecting how and whom you’ll bring on your team. Missteps here are the most costly and bring the longest (and largest) debt to your organization. We’ll walk you through how to evaluate the skill-set, structure, and fit. We’re talking about the “who” in your team and addressing the “when” to hire.
  2. Building the Team: we will dive into how onboarding, team dynamics, structure, and company culture play driving roles as your organization scales. We’re not talking solely about culture here (more on that in the future), we’re talking about how we stay in-tune with our people to understand the growing pains, harness the new found energies in new hires, and tap into hidden scaling potential.
  3. Facing People Challenges: as your company scales, sometimes your people don’t scale with it (or as fast as they need to). We are going to talk about identifying struggling team members, how to respond, and deciding on a resolution path that will allow your company to continue forward. (These are the hard conversations I noted above.) We’ll also talk about how that gets communicate out to your organization.
  4. Evolving the Organization: our final topic on people starts to overlap with process and policy — we’ll look at how our people evolve in the organization. Some positions (and people as noted above) will go away and some new ones will enter the fold. We will discuss how you’re hiring, training, and employee development needs to shift from generalists to specialists. Finally, we will talk about how the composition of your team evolves, the types of roles you need, the seniority of staff, and start the conversation on culture.

Your team, the people there today and the staff you hire in the future, are the life-blood of your organization. If you’re going to make one investment this year – invest here. The dividends will repay themselves when you’re surrounded by an amazing team.

When it comes to people, it starts with hiring.

People. Process. Policy. Culture.

One of the top challenges a company faces is figuring out how, and often when, to grow. Let’s clarify one thing up front. You probably aren’t interested in growing as a company. No. You want your company to scale. I’m not talking that hockey stick scaling of your revenue (that’s nice too – don’t get me wrong); I’m talking the addition of people and services to your company which it needs to accomplish its business.

Before we jump in we need to answer one key thing: what’s the difference between growing and scaling? The team at Fundable says it best. “Growing means you are adding resources at the same rate you’re adding revenue.” When you add revenue, you hire. You add more revenue, you hire more. It’s nearly a one-for-one trade of revenue for people. We often think of consulting or professional service firms as growth companies. Your growth is linear – you’re not scaling.

Scaling on the other hand is “adding revenue at an exponential rate while only adding resources at an incremental rate.” When you add revenue, your first instinct isn’t to go out and hire; rather, you’re calculated on when (and whom) to hire. We often think of internet companies as companies that scale. Your ratio of revenue to resources is that of a scaling organization.

When you look inside your company, there are three main levers that impact your company’s ability shift from a growing organization to a scaling one. I call them the 3 P’s.

  • People are the foundational pillar of a strong organization. It’s essential you have the right people doing the right jobs at the right time. They are the heart of your company and are your greatest asset. They are also your biggest expense.
  • Process (or lack thereof) can hamper your business’s growth. You need to strike the balance in having processes which enable you to work more efficiently without adding an undue burden to your team. The right processes can return exponential value to your business.
  • Policy becomes the tool to further ingrain practices and procedures into your business. You can leverage policies to cement your business rhythm and shape how your business will continue to flourish. Having the right organizational structure and flow can ease the scaling process.

A growing company focuses on one, maybe two of the P’s. Yes they will experience growth – but they won’t scale.

Individually the P’s are strong; however, when combined they bring an amazing scaling force into your business.

People + Process + Policy == Culture

When your organization scales and changes, so does its culture.

Every organization has a culture that carries weight and adds value as it scales. As a leader, you want to ensure your organization has a healthy and inviting culture that welcomes a scaling mindset.

Scaling means paying attention to your organization’s evolving culture and staying in-tune with the impact it has on your success.

A solid foundation of the 3 P’s builds a mighty culture which will drive your business to successful scale.

Another way to look at this is:

  • Have the right people.
  • Do the right work correctly (process).
  • Reinforce your organizational structure (policy).
  • Drive and embrace culture.

Each has an impact on the other and by noting successes, correcting for failures, and measuring progress — your business will scale.

No one will say this is easy; however, with persistence, dedication, and focus you can drive the success your organization needs.

And it starts with the People.