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Published April 28th 2014

Growing Right: Balancing Expansion with Culture

As we continue to grow at record pace, we are often confronted with some interesting hurdles.

In this post, Brandwatch CMO Will McInnes sheds some light on the inner workings of the company (or #insidebrandwatch as we like to call it).


One of our biggest challenges we have at the moment is finding enough great people quickly enough.

It is probably the single biggest constraint we have to growing Brandwatch.

Finding brilliant people takes time.

Maybe 3 months from scoping out the role and writing the role description to then finding the right candidates. Add to that a further 2 weeks (USA) to 3 months (senior person, Europe) of notice period.

So 3.5 months to possibly 6 months! One to two business quarters. Ooof!

That’s horribly slow when you have a year to double in size.

And when your marketplace is evolving week by week, as ours has been over the past 6 months. It doesn’t feel like we have this time.

Nested within this challenge is a more subtle, dangerous challenge: compromising.

The team

Not hiring people with the right cultural fit. Or who are good enough, rather than really great. Hands on deck rather than people who take the company forwards.

I face this challenge weekly and I know my many colleagues hiring do too. We currently have 40 open positions across three countries and five offices.

Those are just the ones we’ve managed to publish, and some of those we may hire multiple people within.

It’s so important that our CEO Giles is actually making it one of his main priorities to drive this.

The pressure is on to grow, to increase our speed of development and the scope of our activities. As a team, it’s what we all want.

But it’s when we start compromising that we start failing (except there will be a lag – a lag that deceives us temporarily).

This ‘Don’t f*ck up the culture’ piece is a helpful reminder, but we all know the story of companies that lost this along the way from first- or close second-hand experience. So it is just a reminder.

We need to look to organisations that have scaled a special culture – companies like Gore, HCL, Zappos and John Lewis that I wrote about it in Culture Shock, and the others that come to mind when you think of this. (NB: writing about it – easy; doing it – hard!).

In a curious way, we have to be really long-term in an environment where most things feel short-term.

Personally, I really like the mantra of ‘hire slowly, fire quickly’, which can raise eyebrows, but it’s really about doing what’s right for the group, which is ultimately also best for the individuals.

A second challenge is located in this ‘growing fast’ domain, which is how best to scale the organisational structure and the incumbent managers.

On the structure piece, I was reading some of our Glassdoor reviews, and one of the Pros that was coming through was the flat structure.
glassdoor
 

 

How do we ‘stay flat’ as we build management, as we deepen focuses on areas that were previously part of a role to now being a dedicated role or even a team?

And with our incumbent managers, how do people like me and my peers evolve ourselves and our behaviours to perform in a world we are moving from being managers of teams to being managers of managers of teams?

This fantastic piece captures that challenge .

What does this transition from ‘player’ to ‘coach to ‘GM’ to ‘commissioner’ mean for communication, for style, for reporting, for control and influence?

Of course, it means changing. Changing personally. That’s really hard. And not everyone will want to do it or be capable of doing it.

In fact, re-reading all of this I realise that this was exactly what Lee Bryant was talking about at Meaning 2013 when he put forward the delicious idea that startups are actually more professional than big companies, and that it’s when they start trying to be ‘professional’ that things go wrong.

Being on the inside of all of this rather than consulting from the outside has been so interesting and actually fun to work with these demands.

My colleague Tim rather marvellously summed up how it feels:

 
tim tweet
Right. Enough chitterchatter. Better get on!


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Crimson Hexagon has merged with Brandwatch. You’re in the right place!

From May 8th, all Crimson Hexagon products are now on the Brandwatch website. You’ll find them under ‘Products’ in the navigation. If you’re an existing customer and you want to know more, your account manager will be happy to help.