The Challenges of Growing From 10 to 20 People
Startup Codex

Organizational challenges accumulate as the company grows. This is personally the aspect that has always kept me on my toes in my own companies. And it's also the one that has interested me the most. Still today, it is one of the topics I bring up the most when I talk to founders or managers.

Spencer Fry's article is interesting for two reasons. First of all, it is the personal feedback of a founder, which already justifies reading it, but it is also a very good synthesis of the challenges of a company that passes the threshold of the first dozens of employees.

Here is a quick summary of the difficulties that Fry mentions in his article. Of course, I invite you to read the full article if this type of challenges concerns you, or are about to.

  • The need to give things up. As a founder, you have to pick and choose what you do and what you don't do.
  • The need for real managers. Individual departments gets bigger. Questions need quick answers. There is a growing need for leadership and one for hiring responsibilities.
  • The need for Company Policies. Fry describes how his company is going from informal, never written down HR policies to a dozen thoughtfully crafted policies posted in a company wiki.
  • The need for better knowledge sharing. Harder to keep everyone up-to-date with everything that's going on.
  • The need to continue to learn and grow every day. The skills you had at ten people are not going to be the same skills you need at twenty people.
  • More people challenges. With more people comes more room for things to go wrong. For Fry, people will continue to be the hardest part of the job for any CEO, but it definitely only gets harder as you grow.
  • With growing teams it’s important to keep everyone on the same page. This calls for planning and writing the company strategy, the product strategy, and so on. A "source of truth" is needed for everyone to be able to refer to as you grow.

When we were under 9 people, we skated by for quite some time with no real managers. In fact for a long time, it was just me running all departments, but as we began to grow, that broke down quickly.

Our individual departments got bigger. There were questions that needed answers more quickly. New hiring responsibilities. Individuals on a team needed a leader to help guide them. Strategy needed to be set for each department.

We needed to organize. We needed a leader to run the various departments. Things were breaking down without them. Who is responsible? Who owns the success here? Who owns the failure?