Herculean Alliance

From start-up to scale-up


From start-up to scale-up. Building breakthrough teams is not just a challenge for large organisations. For start-ups and scale-ups, the team is probably even more important. Most of the start-ups and scale-ups focus on “Realising The Dream” -thank God for that. It’s great to have a dream, it’s great to focus on it, but without an amazing team the dream won’t last. Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people. Even in the age of digital disruption. And no, having a ping-pong table, bean bags and playing Quidditch is not enough to make a team… 

The seniors in the Herculean team have a corporate background, did their fair share of starting-up and are now in scale-up mode. On top of that, we help large corporations like ABN AMRO, Allianz, Brussels Airport Company, Atlas Copco and many others to improve wellbeing through the Hercules Academy. We believe in a holistic approach and not in “one size fits all”.

But let’s zoom in on the main differences between start-ups and scale-ups first. David Glickman explains in Recode: “Start-ups invest money to learn, experiment and find validation, all on their quest to uncover a winning formula. Scale-ups invest money and accelerate growth once they know that putting in $X will return $Y.

I’ve learned from experience that the required skill set and focus of a company’s leadership shifts dramatically between a company’s start-up and scale-up phases, and there’s no way to move from one to the other without taking this shift into account. Here are a few key examples:

Specializing: In a start-up, there’s an early bias towards hiring “full stack” employees that are generalists. They can achieve a lot with a little, and they allow the business to get started and keep growing with a smaller team. As the organization grows, however, one person can no longer “do it all,” or do it as well as a specialist. This can spell a tricky time for a business. Shifting generalists to a narrower focus or bringing in a team to sit beneath generalists can be an adjustment, but it’s one of the growing pains involved in transitioning from startup to scale-up.

Risk-averting: As a start-up, your customer base is small and you haven’t proven your model yet. You aren’t worried about messing up a status quo because you haven’t settled into one yet. Since you’re focused on taking risks that could lead to the perfect “Bingo!” moment, consistency isn’t exactly king (or queen). That will shift gradually and increasingly as your customer base grows, and your growing team will require more support from operations, technical and customer service. As a company scales up in size, the previous trial and error allows a more thorough knowledge of what works and what doesn’t; however, with that comes a smaller window for experimentation in your business model.men_building.jpg

Operationalizing: They don’t always receive the warmest of welcomes in a business, but processes are a necessary evil when you hit a critical size. When a team is small, having set processes can be more of a hinder than a help. It’s so much simpler (and more personable) to roll your chair over and ask someone to help you, rather than log into a software program, fill in a job request and submit a ticket to your co-worker without ever making eye contact. However, once you’re bigger, there’s a need to prioritize requests, keep record of activities, track jobs and form some consistency to ensure you’re getting the most out of available time and money.

Leading on: Leadership required to helm a start-up can be very different from the leadership required by a scale-up. The skills needed to hire, train and mentor can change drastically based on the above three items. I can’t express this more strongly — the leadership required for a startup is entirely different than the leadership for a scale-up. The leadership skills can often evolve with this, and sometimes the leadership expands to also move into more specialized roles. This can often require bringing in a new skill set from outside, with experience running this bigger, more grown-up type of company.

Read the full article here.

From start-up to scale-up, Bottom-line: every type of organisation needs to work on wellbeing for their employees, because happy employees are productive employees that will help you realise your dream. Need help to build a holistic wellbeing program for your company? Give us a call.