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What You Need To Know When Scaling Rapidly

Scaling Team
Hiring

28 April, 2020

Janssen Choong, Partner at Horizon Connect, highlights the importance of the right hiring strategy when your startup scales rapidly.

Problem

Rapid scaling requires a colossal effort, strong cash flow, and superlative knowledge. However, people are essential for scaling your startup. Knowing who and when to hire and how to structure your organization is a huge challenge. Early hires are vital to smooth scaling -- if scaling is anything but smooth.  

Actions taken

Everything starts with securing solid funding. However, before your funding round comes in you should be already on the lookout for prospective candidates building your pipeline. If there is mutual satisfaction you should convey the contingency of the situation to your potential hire. Ideally, this should be done during the first call.
 

Once the funding is secured, you should increase your pipeline which is always a challenge for emerging and unknown companies. You should start off with your network, but the fast growth will require that you will need to look for people beyond your network. If you are hiring three to five people friends and friends of the friends will do, but more than that will require some posting on the AngelList or LinkedIn or direct outreach through sourcing. The more people you plan to hire and in the shortest time frame, the more additional help you will need.
 

Additional help could come as an external agency or a part-time contracted recruiter, or you can opt to collaborate with other companies and do joint events to attract talent especially if hiring in-location. As an early startup, it can be critical deciding to go fully remote but is important to anticipate your prospective geographical distribution and early make necessary plans. If starting off in San Francisco prepare for remote hiring as it’s hard to hire in-location fast enough to grow. Deciding based on money and output you will typically tilt towards remote.
 

When hiring between five and 15 people you should start thinking about the structure and how your engineering teams will be organized. When you are hiring 5 to 15 you need to think about how will you structure your company and more specifically your engineering teams. As an engineering leader, somewhere around the 7th, 8th person mark you will have to balance running the engineering team, recruiting and building the organization and it will be taxing. During this transitionary time you should consider bringing in an engineering manager leading the team in addition to you. If it doesn’t work you can part ways since the team is still small and you can step in; when an EM runs 15 people replacing him/her will be more painful.
 

With an EM in place, you still need to maintain some level of touchpoint with your engineers. You should do two or three times a week synch ups with your EM but even with more than 15 people you should have one-on-ones once per month or per two months with your engineers and try to resolve issues your EM can’t. At around 30 people, you need to push one-on-ones once every three months and by that time you will want three EMs.  

Lessons learned

  • Everything eventually comes down to expectations. Be clear and transparent about expectations.
  • The proper structure at the proper time will safeguard you from risk in a situation when it doesn’t go well.
  • As you grow you will have many more responsibilities as an engineering leader that encompasses more than building products.

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