I love that a big part of my job is fielding questions from founders. These range broadly from minute and tactical to big picture and open-ended. Recently, I got a question that really got my brain moving. A founder reached out with a request for some opinionated perspective:
“I would be interested in hearing about best practices that early stage Series A firms can use relating to training, onboarding, going to market and scaling. Any best practices or processes that you have used in the past to help these companies get going and establish some infrastructure would be very beneficial.”
While this founder had some other specifics that we tackled as well, the core of my response to them felt helpful to share with others. This is a big question with lots of different facets, so let me try and boil down to a few key points:
- Recognize who is on your team and who will be on your team: Moving into Series A typically means adding some layers into the organization. This also means that you will be hiring more people who have a primary interest in developing their professional skills (rather than a specific passion for the firm or founder). At the same time, you have an existing team of flexible, utility players. You need to have an honest conversation with both of these populations about what to expect as the company evolves. Be honest with the newbies about what you can provide, and help the existing team see how their roles evolve (and if that evolution means they should depart, do it with gratitude and grace).
- Develop clear goals and metrics: As the org widens and deepens, you need to have simple ways to give team members clarity and context. Goals are an exceptionally helpful way to do this - revist and talk about them often to ensure understanding and buy-in.
- You are past idea stage, so act like it: Series A implies you have found something that works. Employees will expect a more refined, evolved mission for both the company and product. Leadership's job is to produce this. Similarly, there will be an expectation for your internal systems, processes, tools, etc to reflect this maturity.
- Invest in leaders: The strength of the CEO or founding team can only go so far. While you will likely have the chance to hire a few experienced industry folks, most leaders on your team will need to be developed internally. Start thinking about investing in those leaders now - ideally, start thinking about what departments/teams you will need in another ~2 years and start developing those folks now.
- Be intentional about having fun: One of the main reasons folks are willing to work the tough startup life is because it is rewarding. This should include cash, equity, and benefits, as you are able, but it should also include fun. Don't expect the hard work from your team if you aren't celebrating with them. Be creative with this - I'm not talking about a beer keg in the lunch room. :)
- Have a vision (a meaningful reason you exist): This might sound simple, but many small-but-scaling teams miss the mark on setting a true north star. You have to give the team and the company something overall to aspire to. Have this written down, refined, and very widely shared with the team.
Curious to hear from the community on this one. What else do you find to be true of a “rising star” Series A company? Connect with me on social media and let’s keep the conversation going!