Your small team punches well above its weight, a perfect example of collaboration in action. As the team grows, the business – almost imperceptibly – holds its breath, hoping the newest recruits will up the ante, not slow the pace.
But as the workforce grows from 10 to 20, then 20 to 200, the team becomes teams, and the fear is no longer that one person might upset the flow.
The new concern is that existing processes, and the technology your teams have grown used to, cannot support the needs of the fast-swelling workforce. Best to get it right from the off.
1. Be long-termist from day one
Fragmented use of technology helps no one. If you’ve got a third of the team swearing by Skype, a third that are die-hard Slack converts and the rest preferring email – plus team Whatsapp groups – tracking and searching for information becomes an impossibility, and people could end up isolated.
Decide what software your team needs to communicate in real time, and make sure it’s scalable to avoid upset later on. That means looking at the administrator portal, testing functionality, checking payment models, and looking at how the price will increase over the lifetime of the business.
2. Anticipate distance
In the UK, official ONS figures showed that 4.2 million people regularly worked from home in 2015. One report by OddsMonkey has predicted that half the UK workforce will work remotely by 2020. And, in 2016, 43 per cent of employed Americans spent at least some time working remotely, according to a survey of 15,000 adults by Gallup.
How likely is it that, as you grow, projects will be juggled by multiple teams in multiple territories – as well as external agencies or clients – all in real time?
Getting workflows nailed down early will facilitate teamwork across borders. This includes document management. Think about how you are going to track versions, so nothing is lost or duplicated, and control permissions.
3. Consider how to lead remote teams
Operations and technology should support everything, from onboarding and training up new starters, to sharing new policies and explaining new systems and procedures to the whole business.
Right now, this could be as simple as projecting your laptop screen onto a board in a meeting room, but how could it be done when you have 20 employees in Tokyo and 20 in New York? Making this seamless is ensuring it’s as easy to reach one person, as it is to reach 100 people.
Brush up on screen sharing and webinar skills, look at ways to automate training from the off, and make it easy for senior managers to reach every single person in the business, or selected teams.
4. Togetherness stems from culture
Visit the offices of one global firm in several different countries, and you might find the office culture is more or less the same. Why? Because they communicate their core values internally, which positively impacts behaviours, and they have consistency in their employer branding that defies boundaries. Oh, and they probably have the same office designer too.
Take a look at Google’s Company page, which has a letter from the founders, a video about the company’s history and its social commitments, and details on what it’s like to work for Google, and you’ll see what I mean.
It’s never too early to define the core values that make your business unique to work for, or to buy from. Done well, these should impact everything from how your frontline teams deal with customers, to how your customers interact with your website and product, to how you manage an appraisal meeting with an employee, or how colleagues talk to one another in a meeting.
Don’t allow fast growth to hamper collaboration, and don’t let late planning slow your growth.
Nigel Davies is the founder of Claromentis.