How do your staff cope with the company growing so quickly?

Most people are obviously very excited, we all enjoy being part of something successful, don’t we?  I think I speak for everyone at Frog when I say that we feel we are making a real positive contribution, and many of our people get direct recognition via e-mails from you, and I thank you for that, it makes them go home that day feeling really good about themselves (in the interest of balance, yes, we get the occasional complaint too, we’re not perfect, but there aren’t many of them).

That’s the obvious answer though, there are lots of other things that happen as a business experiences this kind of growth, and it can be very difficult for some people.  Given that this is bound to be the more interesting read, I’ll focus on the downsides, no-one wants to hear a fanfare all the time!

In the early days there were only a handful of us at Frog, everyone worked together, there was no hierarchy, no structure, just lots of hard work and hard play.  A few years ago the business grew from 6 to nearly 20 people within the space of 3 months (there are nearly 50 of us now). Hierarchy and structure necessarily started to show themselves, and the new people had a very different relationship with the directors to that enjoyed by the original staff.

With such an influx of new blood some of the original team found it very difficult.  People used to sitting at the top table suddenly felt that their jobs were being given to someone else.  Because historically they were involved in every decision, they suddenly felt shut out of the decision making process outside of their newly defined, tighter roles.  As senior team members are recruited, or promotions given to some over others, this can be a very difficult time for many people.

Under normal circumstances our staff retention is outstanding, but at these step change points I’ve come to see this a little like a snake shedding its skin so that it can continue to grow.

The first time this happened we tried to keep people, offered reassurance and tried to coach them through it, but the fact that they were “not being one of the bosses any more” created a discontent that started to affect the new recruits.  This situation also starts to eat away at the individual’s self-confidence and they unfortunately fall into a descending downward spiral.

This is not the case for everyone, I’m happy to report.  Many are able to adapt their perspectives as this kind of growth takes hold. I’m also really happy to say that some of our senior people fit into this category.  While they weren’t necessarily ready for the big jobs at the time, they have become ideal candidates for many of the senior roles that have emerged as the company has grown.

I suspect that this issue is specifically prevalent during the “start-up” to “structured company” transition as we haven’t really experienced this during our later stages of growth – the management structure is already in place and people have no sense that they’re losing anything.

There are also lots of things we needed to do to get all the new staff bedded in quickly, but that’s perhaps for another day.

Well, I hope looking at a bit of the dark side of our past has provided an interesting insight.

Any more questions, please send them to gareth.davies@frogtrade.com

Curious about Business?

On my travels around schools and conferences I’m often asked all sorts of questions, ranging from obvious ones like “why weren’t you on the Becta list”, to more inquisitive ones like “how do you choose a management team”, or even once, “how do you conduct meetings”. There seems to be a lot of interest from school’s, especially senior leadership, in how a company actually runs under the skin.

I thought I’d try a bit of an experiment. If you’re curious about how things work in a business, how we do things, how we decide things, or whatever, please e-mail me directly at gareth.davies@frogtrade.com (I won’t be using peoples’ names in the questions, but please send along your position and general location, e.g. HeadTeacher, London Area).

These will all be filed in the Questions category

Gareth