Being the CEO of a startup isn’t easy, but it is not too hard either. It becomes more difficult as the team grows. It is a skill to drive growth from 1–>20. It is different for 20->150, 150 ->500, and so forth.
My team grew from 10 to 72 in the past 3 quarters. You can imagine the many things that have happened in this time frame:
- Advertisement, recruitment, onboarding and training for all of them.
- 2 moves — moved to an office, grew out of there, moved to a bigger one.
- Purchased tables, chairs, laptops, computers, internet connections, etc.
and a lot more…
But if you compare my schedule before and after, it is pretty much the same when we were 10 or 20 or 50 or 72. Here is how!
Having the right people around you
I was lucky to be part of a 4 member founding team. This meant that there are more brains and hands who are as vested to this goal as I am. It gets even more easy when your aims align with that of your co-founders.
If you don’t have the right co-founders, hire the right people. This is what I’m doing at the moment. When you keep growing, you need more power to hold the fort.
Delegate with Trust, Responsibility and Authority
I’m a big believer of trusting people. This helps in the first place. I’m not worried about back-stabbing.
Then it is about the quality of work — can they do it as good as me? In my volunteering experience with IEEE, I have had the opportunity to work with some amazing people. I have worked at root level, all the way upto chair roles on a myriad of committees. Being a perfectionist, I’m bound to be, by default, a skeptic. But IEEE taught me that people could be better than you in many things.
While the team started growing, Jofin started taking initiative to build the team and figuring out the other ground stuffs. In all fairness, he is a better people person than I’m. I just left it to him and Nithin to carry on without me as a hindrance. I stayed away, letting them assign responsibility and authority to themselves (they are founders and they have all the liberty anyways). This worked out beautifully for us.
This goes as a sub-point here. If you delegate with authority, it means you are delegating the decision making as well. You should feel comfortable about it.
Distancing yourself and defining the points of interaction
Right from the launch of the company, I have never gotten into a habit of talking to everyone. If I did, I could do it maybe until we were 10 people (that is also tough). If I do above that, I won’t have time to talk to everyone, every day.
So, the first job is to distance yourself from the activities where you are not needed. I have never interviewed a Data Researcher at Vibe myself. I have observed the whole process, sat with others on the panel, but intentionally never conducted one. I have never went for a recruitment event (yet). I have never taken the responsibility of inducting/onboarding new hires. It helps big time to not poke in where you are not needed.
Then you decide who you interact with on a regular basis. In my case, I talk to 2–3 people on a regular basis, 2–3 people on ad-hoc basis. That is it. The wheel keeps rolling.
Keep track, stay involved, be approachable
Though you are not into it, you should still be involved and keep track of how things are. I handle training sessions whenever I get a request; in fact, I love doing it. In most cases, for things like ‘why you do what you do?’, the CEO is the best person to ask. So, be around, stay involved. Staying involved and chiming in wherever needed is a crucial piece.
While you distance yourself, you also should remain open and approachable. Though not everyone, there are people at all job levels who share their professional and person thoughts very openly with me. It is a type of open door policy. You should keep iterating this until it reaches the last team member.
I haven’t done this till now since my team has been doing awesome and I still am reasonably involved. So, I never felt a need to bring KPIs and processes, etc. in. But recently we had a detailed discussion on internal KPIs. Seems like we are getting there.
Is it going Absolutely fine?
Nope. If I were to say that ‘it is blissful’, I would be lying. There are small problems that I get to hear. Some ego, some politics, some lack of understanding, some expectation mismatches.
Have I seen mistakes from my team? Yes, on multiple occasions. Would I have made that mistake? Maybe, maybe not or maybe some other mistake! Everyone is bound to make mistakes. That is ok.
How did you manage your team as you grew up?
If you like what you are reading, please do share it and it will be a motivation for me to continue to scribble 🙂