There’s an uncomfortable truth in business - everything breaks when you grow. And we see it time and time again with early-stage tech startups. If you’re a founder leading a small team, you’ve probably got quite a lot of control over how your business runs, and a strong connection to every member of your team by default. But as new people join to help with increasing demand, everything changes. Those well-documented tech startup challenges start to appear, one after the other. And the strategies and rituals that helped you get to this point suddenly stop working.
How you react to these new challenges will either propel you to the next level, or leave you lagging behind your competitors. So, today, we’re highlighting 7 of the most common scaling problems to look out for, and also providing some advice on how to avoid them. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it’s a useful guide for safeguarding your teams in times of rapid growth.
7 Growing Pains Every Tech Startup Should Prepare For
1. Communication Breakdown
When your team is small, the company’s mission and vision are communicated organically. Close proximity to your people means that they’ll naturally see and understand the impact of their work. Once your teams grow to include multiple departments and managers, this can no longer be left to chance, and assuming goals will naturally come up in conversation is no longer an option. Now you need a strategy to ensure the right conversations are taking place, and to ensure your people are aligned.
- Develop a routine meeting structure that works for everyone on your teams
- Seek out effective, scalable, digital communication channels for things like praise and idea-sharing
- Invest in a platform like Frankli that provides clarity on what your teams are working towards, and connects people to the company’s mission and vision
2. Onboarding Overload
Finding the right people takes time. But in tech, growth can be head-spinningly fast, and founders are often tempted to hire accordingly. Overzealous hiring can be disastrous for startups. Not only do you potentially hire the wrong people for the job, but, when you hire too many people too quickly, you risk stretching culture, and your existing team members, to their limits.
- Take the time to find the right people
- Ensure hiring efforts are closely tied to goals
- Hire for culture fit
3. Declining Employee Satisfaction
One of the biggest challenges of scaling is ensuring your people feel valued and connected when so much change is happening around them. New hires, shifting priorities and increasing responsibilities can all lead to stress and burnout for your people, particularly managers. Typically, these are the same people you need to take the business to the next level, so employee satisfaction should be a top priority.
- Encourage praise and recognition, and provide digital channels for sharing it
- Ensure all managers are having regular, structured 1:1s with their people so issues can be addressed in real-time. Having this consistent framework in place also helps your managers avoid burnout.
- Encourage your managers to monitor workloads closely
- Evaluate and enhance your company’s culture as you scale, in collaboration with your teams
4. Declining Employee Engagement
When things get busy, we often forget about the big picture - the vision and mission that brought us all together in the first place. For people to be truly engaged with their work, they need to be connected to this mission, and understand how their work feeds into the company’s success. In times of hypergrowth, things change fast, so let your company goals be your anchor.
- Develop a framework for measuring engagement - platforms like Frankli can help you run surveys, manage feedback and analyse performance
- Ensure goals are transparent, clear and aligned across the organisation, from top to bottom
- Make sure your people can see a clear career trajectory and that there are suitable growth opportunities provided for them
5. Rising Attrition
We’ve already spoken about how scaling can be tough on your people. If you don’t put the right supports in place, your top people may just head for the door. Compensation and benefits will, of course, be a factor in their decision, but culture, work-life balance and opportunities to grow have just as big a role to play.
- Ask your people about their needs regularly, and try to be responsive - it’s likely that flexibility and autonomy will be on the list
- Support career development through coaching and mentoring programs, and career pathways
- Give managers the resources they need to be able to communicate and demonstrate company culture
6. Strained Customer Relationships
Scaling customer support often means compromising service, but it doesn’t have to. Understanding and responding to the needs of your evolving customer base should be a top priority, regardless of how many people are now paying for your product or service.
- Take time to find the right fit for your customer success roles
- Build a strong feedback loop between customer and other departments
- Rethink your support channels - embrace automation but make sure your customers can still speak to a team member when they really need it
7. Overstretched Founder
To scale a business, you also have to scale yourself as a leader. Being involved in every single decision is no longer an option, so you may need to shift focus or develop new skills in order to rise to the task. Communication and decision-making becomes more important than ever, while growing responsibilities put more demands on your time.
- Don’t try to do everything. Seek help when you need it.
- Be mindful about your schedule and leave room for strategic thinking
- Set personal developmental goals to help you become the kind of leader you want to be
Frankli helps your teams sustain high employee engagement and retention, even in phases of hypergrowth. Learn more about Frankli.