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From Start-Up To Scale-Up: Five Ways To Turbo Boost Your Team

Scaling up your start-up can be a roller coaster ride. Once your company grows beyond 15 or 20 people, different behaviours, processes and practices are needed to avoid complete and utter chaos. This can be a painful transition, but with the right team in place, it can also be a LOT of fun.

We currently employ 160 Unrulies around the globe and are on the hunt for more awesome people to join us as we scale around the world. While every business is different, I’d love to share my experiences with you and show how the power of teamwork helped us to transition from scrappy start-up to successful scale up.


1. Talk to the team


In terms of growth hurdles, keeping communications lines open is certainly a challenge, but extreme communications are key to ensuring that we’re all pulling in the same direction!

As your team grows, think about your comms pulse on a number of different planes and time frames. For Unruly, where we’re operating across 13 offices and 8 time zones, these include: daily team stand-ups, weekly 1:1s with line managers, office stand-ups on a Monday to set the focus and direction for the week ahead, weekly meetings of the leadership team to align strategic priorities; fortnightly planning games (product, dev, design), monthly “Show and Tells”, where teams share latest developments and best practices and quarterly Town Halls to set objectives. Plus all-company product brainstorms and celebratory “UnrulyFests”, where teams from across the regions converge on HQ to share knowledge and have a damned good time together.

Why is this important? Because people hate to be surprised, hate to be the last to know, hate to feel they’re in the dark and clear, prompt knowledge dissemination is crucial to running a genuinely meritocratic, politics-free workplace.


2. Develop the team


This was a big priority for us – we were hiring lots of recent graduates who had awesome energy and ideas, but not necessarily that much business experience. We were asking so much of our young stars we felt it was crucial to give them access to personal development opportunities to help them continue to develop and grow with the company.

So Unruliversity was born – a series of professional development seminars run by external trainers to help high potential Unrulies learn about managing clients, managing conflict, thinking strategically, develop emotional intelligence. In addition to formal training, we strongly encourage Unrulies to attend and speak at conferences and industry events, so they have the opportunity to build their profile in the broader digital marketing industry. This is crucial if we want to keep bringing new ideas into the business.


3. Trust the team


If you can’t delegate, you’re dead. Our CEO is great at stepping back. It doesn’t come so naturally to me and have to check myself if I’m getting too suffocating. My rule to myself is I only come into a meeting if I truly believe I can add unique value to the meeting. Following this simple rule has helped me cut the number of internal meetings I attend in half, freeing up more time to spend with key customers, which is so important at all stages of your start-up’s growth.

Make sure your hiring processes are rigorous (including stringent reference-checking, competence testing and taster days to check for cultural fit) then [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]when you’ve got awesome people on your bus, let them take the wheel![/inlinetweet] Beware of hiring in a layer of middle management when your business starts to scale…


4. Empower the team


It can be demotivating for young superstars when you bring in managers above their heads, so whenever possible give your best performers the opportunity to rise to the challenge, even if they don’t have the experience.

At Unruly, our “squad” approach to key projects gives younger team members the confidence to try their hands at project management, be accountable for a specific output, work with colleagues from other teams and build their personal profile. Squads are cross-functional teams, convened for a short period of time (6 months or less) to deliver a specific goal (eg product launch, new website, office move), often managed by a more junior team member, with the backing of an executive sponsor. This structure lets high-potential Unrulies manage a project early on in their career and know there’ll be plenty of back-up and support. If you want to get the best out of your team, making your company a safe place is crucial as you scale.


5. Celebrate the team!


Whether you think of your start-up as a family, a team, a tribe or a hot bed of passion and productivity, one thing is true: when a company is growing quickly, too much change can be unsettling for your employees; a culture book can be a really memorable and personal way of encapsulating values or capturing a special moment in a company’s history.

As well as being clear about the core values – in our case #DeliverWow, #ShareTheLove and #EmbraceChange – it’s good to celebrate your culture. For Christmas last year a small team of us lovingly crafted a “Little Book of Unruly” packed full of photos and memories that we gave to every Unruly as a gift.

Like the sound of Unruly? Why not take a look at our open roles now!