Scaling a business is an exciting but challenging endeavour. It requires careful planning, strategy, and execution to ensure that the company remains profitable as it grows and evolves. But with all of the focus on growth, one thing is often overlooked—company culture. As a business scales up, it can be tempting to push aside cultural elements in favour of more pressing matters. But doing so can have disastrous consequences for the company's long-term success. How, then, can a business scale without sacrificing its culture?
Understanding your company's culture
The first step is to take stock of the current company culture. This means understanding what values, attitudes, and behaviours define the organisation and how they are reflected in every aspect of the business. In other words, you need to understand what makes your company unique. This will help to ensure that culture remains at the forefront of decision-making as the business grows.
"A company’s first ten hires define that company’s culture," wrote Neha Sampat in a recent article for Fast Company. "Are they buttoned-down business types? Sticklers for rule-following? Focused on growth at all costs? From there, she continued, culture emanates like a ripple in a big pond—for better or worse."
He added that when growing their businesses, leaders "often overlook what it takes to scale culture. And without a strong culture, we’re like Sisyphus and his boulder—everything is a struggle, going nowhere fast."
Communication is key
One of the most important things to remember when scaling your business is to keep communication open and honest with your employees. Communication should not be limited to when something goes wrong—it should be regular and ongoing throughout the process. Your employees should feel like they are part of the process and that their voices are being heard so that they don't become disconnected or disillusioned with their role in the company. Encourage an open dialogue between managers and employees by providing feedback loops, surveys, and other methods of communication.
In a recent Forbes article titled "5 Tips For Scaling Your Business," Andrei Petrik wrote, "it’s important to ensure that communication between departments and individuals is as smooth and seamless as possible."
"Make sure there isn't a vacuum around new employees; they should be able to confidently start their new job with all the tools, information and support they need for success. Proper organisation and distribution of information is essential to making sure new recruits can hit the ground running," he added.
As you grow, you must prioritise flexibility within your organisation. As processes become more complex, there will inevitably be some changes that need to happen as your business scales up. The key is ensuring that these changes are implemented in a way that does not disrupt or diminish employee morale or satisfaction levels. Having a flexible approach will allow you to adjust quickly while still staying true to your core values and mission statement. It's also important to keep in mind that each team member has different needs—making sure those needs are met will help ensure everyone feels secure during times of transition and change.
"The modern employee is more flexible than ever before, and as they begin to return to office, they are bringing a new flexible mindset, " Katherine Boyarsky wrote last year. "For businesses who plan to do more than just tread water, it's necessary to stay in-tune with the personal and professional needs of your employees on an individual level. And for the modern employee, that means increased flexibility in the workplace."
Data shows that more than 73% of the global workforce wants to keep their flexible remote work options beyond the Covid-19 pandemic. This can be a challenge — especially for smaller businesses that may lack the resources of larger companies – but it's an essential step to take when scaling your business. By establishing flexible policies and procedures, you can ensure that all employees feel safe, supported, and valued as your company grows.
Invest in your people
When scaling up, it's easy for companies to get caught up in numbers—how much money can we make? How fast can we grow? While these questions are essential, they shouldn't come at the expense of investing in your people—your greatest asset! Investing in people means investing time into training them properly so they can reach their full potential within your organisation; providing meaningful rewards; offering competitive wages; creating an environment where ideas can flow freely; offering mentorship programs; providing opportunities for growth; recognising achievements; and cultivating an inclusive atmosphere where everyone feels valued for who they are and what they bring to the table. These investments go a long way towards building loyalty among your team members, which will help ensure success over time as you scale up.
In his best-selling book, "Leaders Eat Last," Simon Sinek explains how a "people first" culture is critical for any organisation that wants to thrive in the long term.
"To ask our employees not simply for their hands to do our labour, but to inspire their cooperation, their trust, and their loyalty so that they will commit to our cause," he writes. "To treat people like family and not as mere employees. To sacrifice the numbers to save the people and not sacrifice the people to save the numbers."
Ultimately, scaling your business while preserving a strong company culture is about finding the right balance between growth and stability. It's essential to recognise that growth does not have to come at the expense of morale or values—with the right approach, you can have both!
By taking time to invest in your people, prioritise flexibility, and foster open communication, you will be well on your way to a successful and sustainable growth strategy.