What to know about transitioning from startup to growth stage with grace
Denver ad-tech firm, Choozle provides up-close and personal vantage point of startup success and organizational growth and change
One truth about startup culture is this: There is always tons of work that needs to get done, but never enough hours or people.
At Choozle, an independent and self-service digital advertising platform, I have witnessed tremendous growth, most of all, in the company we have created. Working in a startup is not easy. It means a lot of work, being flexible and agile. It is like being in college when a small group of people put on a production together. The challenges are part of the fun. While it may be a lot of work, seeing your company transition from startup to growth-stage organization, is impressive – especially with a lean team.
In the first half of 2017, Choozle added 20 new employees and opened an office in London to bring the total employee count to 51. On top of internal growth, the number of platform subscription partners increased 51 percent year-over-year as they executed more than 4,500 platform campaigns.
But how did we get here?
I say it was because we stayed focused and assembled a great team, which should be attributed to our co-founders, Andrew Fischer and Jeffrey Finch.
When we began to ramp sales, it was tempting to assume that we nailed it and hit cruise control.
But that was never the case at Choozle.
With a lean team, we all strived to make the product, sale, experience and company better. We knew in a world of limited resources, we could risk failing to capitalize on the opportunity we’d created by letting our focus wander. With the central focus of making a product that is easy for customers, there is a bias toward action and an appetite to try new things. The collective resistance to change and risk that I experienced in bigger companies didn’t exist at Choozle.
All of us are growing into our roles together, which makes it an exciting environment to walk into every day. And when things get crazy, I've learned that I need to consciously remind myself – and my team – of the bigger picture. Startups, really any business, for that matter, can fall into a trap of paying too much attention to the day-to-day and failing to spend enough time on big picture strategic planning. I've figured out we can work more efficiently if we just spend a time mapping objectives, and understanding how the latest ideas will affect each level of the business before we implement it.
While there are plenty of ways founders facilitate the transition, the question is: can every employee contribute to the successful transition from startup to growth-stage
CELEBRATE WINS – BIG AND SMALL
Even in the beginnings of a company, it’s important that you recognize the small wins. As your company is growing, there can be long lulls between the pivotal moments of triumph. If you want to contribute positively to company morale, it’s important to have a way to recognize small wins along the way. This means during daily or weekly huddles, you need to recognize and talk about the small achievements with your team. Simple, verbal recognition is a great reward and helps keep the team momentum.
ACCEPT CHANGE WITH GRACE
In most jobs, a lot of what you do is following procedures. Most companies have a standard way of doing things, for everything from manufacturing to marketing to putting together meeting agendas. While new ideas are welcome, they typically fall into a framework of how the company has operated in the past.
At a startup, you’re building everything from scratch. As your company transitions, there will be growing pains. This means more structure in places there never was. Know that all of these changes can be for the better, to help scale your business.
Startups are typically driven by the founder’s vision. With a few employees, it is easier to communicate how you are all are working toward that end goal. As the company matures, this can be harder, as more people and personalities mix and separate. But it is essential that all employees feel connected to the vision. Everyone will have strengths and weaknesses and its important to align those skills with company and individual goals.
Everyone’s individual successes come together to push the company forward. I, personally appreciate being surrounded by others who are passionate about the product and their careers, and who are willing to work hard. We all know that it's important to find a balance between team and individual victory. Even though we've grown so quickly, we still have a huge, untapped audience to reach and more fun to be had.