100 employees. 100 lessons. Part 3: 📣 Communication, scaling and structure 🎖Culture 👔 Hiring
This is part of a series. You can find a link to all the parts here.
📣 Communication, scaling and structure
41. The startup will feel like a different company every 6 months
You will and should have a new job every six months.
42. Over-communication is better than under communication
There is no such thing as the right level of communication.
43. Keep the organisation structure simple by default
Creating different groups creates communication overhead.
44. Be transparent (but optimistic) by default
Employees really appreciate it when you share sensitive stuff like how a board meeting went and it’s less effort than creating information silos.
45. 1-on-1s are critical
I recommend having a template. Mine was asking them to talk through: 1) Top priorities 2) Concerns / challenges 3) Mood out of five 4) Team mood out of five 6) Any topics to discuss. BUT also keeping it open and treat it as a dialogue. It’s one of the only spaces that people have to communicate informally and that’s where the important stuff comes out.
46. Create and maintain a lean strategy
A good basic strategy setup for a seed stage company consists of the following artifacts
- Problem — what is the status quo
- Vision — what would the ideal future look like
- Mission — our role in going from problem to vision
- A brainstorm on “what does success look like for us in 10 years” which should be condensed into ~5 long term goals
- Company OKRs derived from the long term goal
- (Once product market fit is there or nearly there) A north star metric with health metrics — The most important KPI to orientate success around e.g. monthly active users balanced by health metrics e.g. %age new users
47. Hierarchical OKRs are a great way of aligning a company
From the company OKRs you can then derive team and individual OKRs which feed up into the company ones.
48. Celebrate successes
Even the small ones! I know companies that ring a bell every time they make a sale, then the team would gather round the bell to congratulate the team member and learn how he closed.
49. Translate successes for the company to successes for the team
e.g. at Nuri we gave our employees Urban Sports Club after we closed a funding round.
50. The culture will and should evolve from the founders
Be aware of this and shape it.
51. Company values are a good way of codifying the culture
These should come from the founder values and the shared vision of the kind of company that you want to create.
52. Values should be constantly talked about and activated
This can be achieved through a) evaluating candidates against the values b) measuring performance in part by how that employee lives the values c) giving awards or calling out examples of someone living the values
53. Culture is a self-fulfilling prophecy
Talk actively about it and what it means!
54. Culture will suffer through hard / busy times
e.g. fundraising when the mood is down and management is distracted. Proactively anticipate challenges to culture e.g. rapid hiring, funding rounds. Think about how to mitigate them.
55. Culture can be diluted if you scale too quickly
BUT new people often bring great energy into the company and are keen to drink the kool aid
56. Make the office a fun place to hang out
If your employees are spending time together in their own time, you’ve done something right.
57. Encourage a grass roots approach to events and activities
Empower team members with small amounts of budgets to set up events. This way it’s more organic for the team and less work for you guys!
58. Go on company trips
Instead of massively overpriced Christmas parties
59. Get hoodies as opposed to T-shirts
Hoodies can be worn more times without needing to be washed.
60. Create key memories
If you ask Nurians what the highlights were for them they will most recall the parties and trips. Try to make these as special and unique as possible as it’s these moments that will stick in people’s head.
61. Hiring is the most important activity
(Once you’ve moved past the idea phase and got your first funding). Understand that it should take a lot of time and spend that time willingly!
62. Hire for culture just as much, if not more, than experience
You can’t teach culture. Note: Hiring for culture is not just the ‘beer test’. Hire against your values.
63. Do a founder interview as part of the hiring process as long as possible
Don’t just get a ‘gut feeling’ for the candidate as founders tend to seek out similar (optimistic, visionary) people, but try something more systematic.
64. Hire people so smart they scare you
Give them a clear direction and empower them.
65. Aim to hire someone who will be useful for the next two years
You should always hire for the company that you will grow into, rather than the company you are today e.g. don’t hire someone who has only managed a 5 person team if you want to have a 20 person team by the end of the year. Also, don’t hire a very strategic, not hands-on director if you’re only a 5 person company.
66. Invest early in senior people who can build teams around them
Hiring junior people and then their superior adds an additional risk that they won’t get on.
67. Getting good people is hard
Spend budget on resources like executive hiring services and make sure you have a great proposition to lure them in.
68. Titles aren’t free
If you give early employees too high titles, it will make it difficult and painful to hire above them.
69. Become a great interviewer
After 100s of interviews, my favourite questions are: a) if you could have any job at any company in the world, what would it be? b) Tell us something that isn’t on your CV c) What’s your spirit animal
70. Think about ESOP early
No handshake deals about ESOP! Set up your ESOP early, create an employee-friendly programme and establish a system for how to distribute it. Like all compensation topics, it’s much easier to get this right first rather than try to fix it later.
👋 Hi, I’m Ben. I support Seed to Series B companies to grow and scale. Connect with me here.