Having a tight-knit culture means that we work closely together, focus on a common goal, and hold one another accountable to an end objective; a small group of people focused on solving a customer problem, on limited budgets, testing and learning, and keeping feedback communication at ultimate highs. It’s the definition of a lean start-up model.
In the earlier days of being a start-up, we didn't think about small teams, because we actually were a small team. As our company becomes larger and more diverse in terms of revenue and user types, we risk becoming a ‘victim of our own success’ in the sense that we have become much larger and lost our ‘small team’ model.
In the spirit of bringing our decision-making back to organizational principles, in July, as Creators of Change, we made two changes for the better. First, we organized our Company into segments and created a Business Leader role that enabled end-to-end, day-to-day decision-making so that we could operate more efficiently and nimbly. Second, we formalized the roadmapping process and re-instituted a product division to ensure that we are invested and aligned to the business results.
In Q4, we are now seeing dividends from these decisions, including improved communication and rallying efforts around our business results. We are also seeing that this is a BIG change for some teammates that feel a loss of creative license, reduced ‘impact’ of role or lacking elements of autonomy.
Well, for those people, I think there’s a third change we can make for the better: Small Teams! In the launch of Palmetto Finance, we saw a very refreshing thing take place that brought us back to our lean startup roots.
Here were the top takeaways after a post mortem on the launch with the Palmetto Finance team:
- Business Leader: each small team needs the ‘market’ expert to doggedly pursue product-market fit; ensuring that we are iterating until market adoption takes place;
- Experienced product leader: tailored to the appropriate and targeted persona and ensuring that we have the requisite industry experience at a product level so that scoping and phasing is clear and managed to timetables, budgets and client expectations;
- Engineer Leader: an experienced engineer to lead the team through to development completion, per the scope set out by product;
- 100% Alignment in ‘who the customer is’ - in our model, we support a wide range of customer-types (approximately 10). Once the customer type is clarify Continual feedback loops with the business development teams and other commercial stakeholders.
- Understand and appreciate that one of the challenges we face is that we have a dynamic marketplace where solutions may conflict if made without understanding the true trade off across each.
- Sales partner (or other sales channel)
- Build partner
- Team members (ops, CX)
- Business partners (financiers, supply chain, software, etc)
- A clear plan for success management with measurable milestones that anyone can objectively observe and see what’s working and what’s not – but also understand the pivots that must take place to achieve success
- Support from Business Partners is Legal, HR, FP&A, IT, BizOps, etc. Leveraging playbooks and ensuring we’re building systems that can scale
- Stretching: with small teams, you flex to do more with the resources you have. This environment has been proven to lead to more creative solutions.
- Hiring behind the growth curve - to keep it lean, we don’t hire until we are at a point where we have full confidence in growth ahead and we are certain we need more investment allocation.
- In the weeds: All levels are in the weeds of a new business. Roles and swim lanes are less defined, so there is more cross-training, and folks are quick to dive in and lend a hand outside of their typical remit or role. Small teams make it so any role stays close to the customer and core business issues.
Accounting for this learning, our next two segments will adopt the Small Teams mantra and we’ll incorporate this into our Organizational Principles.
As we continue to scale, we will continue to build more scalable central architecture, systems (enterprise platform), and a project management role that helps better enable new and existing small teams to launch and grow. And also to ensure we are highly coordinated and aligned to long-term goals and the ultimate mission.
The beauty of this model is it helps us remain lean and nimble, adjust to market conditions faster, execute within lower budgets and tighter timelines, and provide tremendous upward mobility to our teammates.