Managing Growing Pains
When you’re less than 50 people, process is the enemy of speed. Then at 50 people, the way we were working started to break. Up until that point we were small enough that everyone pretty much knew everything that was happening in the company. But once we hit 50 people, it became impossible to organically keep track of what everyone else is doing.
One example is that our customers told us that we weren’t fixing bugs fast enough. It turned out we had always depended on the fact that the guys who found the bugs sat right next to the guys who fixed them. But that changed as we got bigger and had customer-support teams and customer-engineering teams. That’s when we started email distribution lists and weekly standing meetings on specific topics between teams.
Here are some other things we do to help manage growth:
All-hands meetings. When we hit 50 people, we started holding an all-hands meeting on Thursday with lunch, which has become one of our most treasured traditions. It's a way to get everyone together, talk about the business, ask questions, and bond. We still do it every Thursday, and it’s over 400 people now, including those WebExing in from around the world. We even record it for employees in Asia who would otherwise be calling in the middle of the night.
Quarterly offsites. We felt the strain again around 150 people. That’s when we started adding mid-level managers and all of a sudden people started focusing (rightfully so) on just their own parts of the business. We had teams in Europe and India at this point, making it even harder to get on the same page. Focus is inevitable and logical, but we also need the overall company to execute.
To help ensure that our management team stays both focused on the big picture and heads down on execution we have a one-day offsite every quarter. It’s hard to make the time as you grow, but it’s critical. I’d recommend that every company start doing this once they hit 50 people. It helps make sure we have a good chunk of time to plan, set goals and talk about the issues we’re facing.
Daily huddles. We also have a standing daily 8:30 a.m. conference bridge that the executive team dials into. It’s a huddle. It’s not required, but I’ve found that if you only get together once a week, your decision-making cadence slows to that schedule.
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