Article | 31 May 2018

Building a Fast-Growth Business

Posted in Freelancer, Top tips, Tools & Advice, Motivation & inspiration, Learning, Events,

Fast-growth businesses face unique challenges when it comes to scaling and growing.  Without often the luxury of time to fine-tune company culture, map out an organisational structure or deliberate over hiring choices, businesses need to be agile and nimble in their decision making.

And with the stakes so high, they need to ensure they’re getting it right.

In our recent event hosted with sister company Hanson Search, we discussed how to recruit the right people and structure your teams from the outset, pitfalls to avoid, innovations in hiring such as a flexible workforce, diversity practices and how this all ties into the long term objective, scaling your brand.

Alice Weightman, CEO of The Work Crowd & Hanson Search, interviewed a panel of entrepreneurs and fast-growth experts about how they can maximise their chances, pitfalls to avoid, using a flexible workforce, the importance of diversity and the challenges of hiring and retaining the right workforce. The panel featured:

  • Alice Lankester, Head of Marketing at Balderton Capital, with 20+ years in marketing and product roles in Silicon Valley, working for technology startups and early growth stage companies such as Nutmeg, Crowdcube and Betfed to name a few.
  • Katy Turner, Managing Partner & Co-founder at Multiple, a strategic consultancy for founders and investors to drive scale. She is also former CMO at Tech City UK, with 15+ years experience in the technology space, including in enterprise, startups and venture capital.
  • Gary Stewart, Director of Wayra UK and Telefónica Open Future UK. This accelerator has invested in over 325 start-ups in the last two years. Previously, Gary co-founded, a Barcelona start-up that raised over €4M in funding before being sold to an Australian competitor.
  • Michael Laws, Head of People & Talent at Bulb Having joined them 18 months ago when they were a team of 10, he has played a pivotal part in their hiring strategy, taking them to an impressive 180 people today.. He has 15+ years in talent development, recruitment and executive search.

On making the transition from start-up to scale up

“When you’re working in an early stage business in the tech space, you’re so focussed on engineering and development challenges and trying to build a product that other human beings will care about. But at some stage, you have to shift your eyes away from the product and when that time comes we advise the people we work with to focus on brand, culture and growth. These are the foundations that will help you scale.” - Katy Turner, Managing Partner & Co-founder at Multiple @KatyT ‏

On getting the culture right

“Getting the culture right – and doing it early – has been the single biggest thing we have done that has helped us be successful so far.

“You need to identify your culture and centre everything around it – whether that’s rewards, recruitment or recognition. It’s also important to never compromise your culture simply because it’s expedient. Never recruit the wrong people just to get bums on seats.

“All of this should be done as soon as possible. It’s like steering a ship. It’s much more difficult to steer a culture in the right direction when it’s already very big and on the wrong course.”- Michael Laws, Head of People & Talent at Bulb @mikelawsy

On the importance of marketing

“As a start-up, it’s incredibly important to see marketing as a profit centre, not a cost centre, and continually think about things like ROI.

“I’m often asked about how to find a great CMO. What companies need to do is identify whether they want a brand marketer or a performance marketer, though of course, a great CMO is able to ride both those horses. When they do get a great marketing team, they need to keep on investing in them and helping them learn new things.” – Alice Lankester, Head of Marketing at Balderton Capital @AliceLankester ‏

On positioning

“Every business exists to make a profit, but we help businesses understand their position better by encouraging them to ask those existential questions – who do we care about, what do we want to achieve. Positioning is about love and hate, drawing people towards you or repelling them. Understanding what type of customer you want is essential.” - Katy Turner

On building a diverse workforce

“I think for too long, diversity strategies have focused too much on getting white women onto boards and there’s not been enough focus on other kinds of diversity, such as how to support black women and those on low incomes. Low-income white men are probably one of the most disadvantaged groups in socioeconomic terms, for example, and there’s often a lack of broader diversity because companies won’t recruit outside London. Companies need to do more to consider different types of diversity in their long-term business strategy.”  - Gary Stewart, Director of Telefonica Open Future UK & Wayra @garystew

On getting the right compensation packages

“In the US, they understand that if you want the best people, and for them to work hard, you need to pay them a lot of money. This isn’t the case in Europe. Here, a lot of start-ups just get the best they can because they can’t afford the best in the market. At some point, this needs to change or Europe will keep losing talent to the US. The best investors know that it’s imperative to put in money at the start to strengthen the management team. You don’t want the CEO to feel burned out because they can’t afford for their kids to go to the right schools.”- Gary Stewart

On retention

“Whenever we lose someone, I like to apply what I call the ‘cheaper test’. If someone says they are going to leave and you feel like you would do anything to keep that person because they are fundamental to the business, then you need to up their money. If you don’t feel like that, wish them well and let them go.”- Gary Stewart

“I don’t worry about retention per se, I just worry about losing people that I don’t want to lose.” - Michael Laws

On avoiding common start-up pit-falls

“Entrepreneurs do tend to be freaks, that’s why they’re able to do what they do! It’s difficult to divorce that personality from an entrepreneur and turn them into something else. Often the most successful start-up founders do have that maniacal mindset. To build something from nothing requires a lot of intensity in the same way an Olympic athlete has that drive to succeed.

“But this sort of personality type often won’t make the best managers. So managing that shift from founder to employer can be one of the biggest challenges.” - Gary Stewart

“There are certain things that can be indicators that start-ups are building up a ‘cultish culture’. Do you have a high churn rate? Is there lots of jargon or internal language? Ideally, new-starters should be able to be a part of your culture within a day of joining. If that’s not possible, they’ll soon feel left out and they’ll leave.” - Michael Laws

On culture & remote teams

“Before exiting we were operating on 3 continents, 16 countries and as the VP of marketing I was spending roughly 40% of my time working on culture and how we maintained culture across all these countries. Constant reinforcement of shared values and open communications is key. In our team we took everyone away for at least 2 days a year and consistently used platforms such as slack to ensure we were having consistent cross-team dialog. The aspect of celebration is very important, it’s important to recognise the great work another team has done.” -Katy Turner

“Do treat freelancers and remote workers as individuals and as an extension of your permanent team by communicating your values and culture. One of The Work Crowd client members has no permanent employees, the business is made up of 25 freelancers and each member is very aware of  the importance their role to the business is.” -Alice Weightman

Looking to scale your business here in the UK or across Europe? The Work Crowd can advise and connect you with the right freelance Marketing and Communications professionals to help get you there. Get in touch with the team today at