5 Ways to Keep Hypergrowth From Turning Into a Nightmare
How great would it be if your startup could come up with a product that the world was scrambling to buy? For some entrepreneurs, this dream is a reality that quickly becomes a nightmare.
Why? Suddenly, you have to hire lots of people quickly, keep multitudes of stakeholders happy, and maintain your culture while being flexible to changing market demands.
For strategies on how to manage hypergrowth, I spoke with Jyoti Bansal, founder and CEO of AppDynamics, an enterprise application monitoring software company. In the fiscal year ending January 31, its customer count more than doubled, to more than 1,000 buyers, while its sales grew 175 percent. In the past 15 months, it also tripled its staff and now has 450 employees. Here are Bansal's tips for staying sane and keeping his company booming.
1. Accept Wobbliness
Rapid startup growth produces a mixture of emotions: terror, excitement, and a never-ending sense that things are about to reel out of control. Bansal calls this "wobbliness." Decide on the critical few things that absolutely must go right--such as making and keeping commitments to customers and communicating frequently with staff--and accept that the rest may be in flux.
2. Hire Only Top Talent
Hypergrowth puts an entrepreneur under pressure to hire enough people to keep up. "It's very tempting to make a compromise and reduce the talent bar so that you can hire faster," says Bansal. "Don't make that mistake. You will get that recruit faster, but it will [eventually] slow you down."
3. Take Culture Seriously
"One of the primary jobs of a hypergrowth company CEO is to keep the culture," says Bansal. "Define and articulate your cultural values clearly. Make sure all new employees embrace the company cultural values. Institutionalize your cultural values by aligning compensation programs around them."
4. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
An entrepreneur must pick a few simple and important messages and repeat them. Explained Bansal: "I have a rule that you have to do strategic repetition about 10 times before you can be sure everyone heard it. Don't assume that because you talked about it once, everyone got it."
5. Embrace Change
"Accept that things will change rapidly in a hypergrowth company," said Bansal. "People will sometimes complain we are not doing things like we used to, but if you embrace change and lead it, everyone else will as well."
Strategy consultant, startup investor, teacher, corporate speaker, pundit, and author of 11 books, Peter Cohan has invested in six startups, three of which were sold for a total of $2 billion. Before founding Peter S. Cohan & Associates in 1994, he worked with HBS strategy guru Michael E. Porter.