In Reid Hoffman and Chris Yeh’s excellent Stanford course on Blitzscaling, they talk about the concept of going from single digit employees, to double-digit, triple digits and so on. Each stage presents its own set of challenges and is radically different from what came before.
I explored this idea with a leadership team of a startup the other day – the company has grown to about 150 people (hitting Dunbar’s Number), leaving the founders worried about scaling the company culture, keeping people engaged and productive.
While exploring this (and related) topics, it became obvious that the company needs to invest in their managers if they want to leap to the next stage. As is the case with many, many companies, most managers at this company organically grew into their roles and responsibilities – typically without much training, guidance or advice. This works okay as long as you are a small company and the founders can have their fingers in all aspects of the business. It fails badly once the leaders have to rely on their managers to communicate and execute their vision down through the company.
Much has been written about the subject (for example here and here) but it requires a commitment to grow your managers first. Personally, I recommend starting to think about this rather sooner than later – don’t wait until you break through the one-hundred employee barrier, and you have to scramble to build skills fast.