Did you hear the story about the start-up that suddenly started scaling incredibly rapidly, but luckily had all of the systems, processes, people and expertise in place to capitalise on it, and so everyone went on to make lots of money and lived happily ever after?
No, me neither.
You spend the first number of years in business, head down, working on your product. Creating something that people want or need in their lives is all that matters at this stage. But then one day you look up from your laptop and there is a queue of tens of thousands of people outside your door looking to buy it. All at once you’re short on people, space, funding, expertise, and all of the other vital things you need to turn all of those people in the queue into satisfied customers.
Of course there’s a lot more going on in the lead up to your scale-up stage: strategic decisions that you make, risks that you take, and the customer segments you target. But the point is that no matter how hard you are driving towards product-market fit, it’s always a shock to the system when it happens.
But it’s a shock that every successful business gets, and all of the companies that you now count as your business heroes have been there.
So we invited two of these globally successful companies – including Airbnb – to join us in our Dublin Centre of Excellence to talk about the challenges they faced when scaling rapidly (or Blitzscaling), and how they learned, not just how to handle them, but how to capitalise on them. They especially focussed on how to scale your team, culture, and customer experience.
Our guests were:
- Aisling Hassell, Global Head of Customer Experience, Airbnb
- Shirley Mullins, Head of Engagement and Employee Development, Voxpro
We will soon publish a full report on all of the stories and insights they shared on the day (and there were many) – in the meantime here are some nuggets that stood out to us:
- Hire all-rounders and enablers – in a rapidly scaling company roles change all of the time, and you need your people to change with them.
- Really take your time when hiring your leadership team – the wrong hire at this level can be very costly in the future.
- Do ‘things that don’t scale’ – this means building systems that mirror what your founders did at start-up stage. This theory is put forward in a fascinating essay by Y-Combinator co-founder Paul Graham.
- Have a mission that you really believe in, and never compromise on it. This will keep the foundations of your company strong, despite how much change it is going through.
- Don’t rely on the traditional interview process: find more creative ways to find out as much as you can about your key hires.
- A powerful company brand, vision and set of values will help you scale your culture across multiple geographies.
- Make peace with your to-do list – accept the fact that you will never get to the bottom of it!
If you enjoyed this article, we think you might also like our newest e-book ‘Blitzscale Like A Boss – Insights From Airbnb, Newswhip & Voxpro’