Une croissance rapide est à la fois stimulante et cruciale pour toute entreprise en développement. But as your organization prepares to reach new heights, it’s essential that success is based not just on technical decisions and processes, but on a global, holistic approach that takes into account people, their environment and their interconnections.

The growth paradox: challenges and opportunities for startups

The myth of growth at any price

While rapid growth has long been considered the ultimate sign of success for start-ups, the perspective is changing. As explained in an article entitled “Will investors abandon unicorns in favor of centaurs?“, investors and executives are increasingly focusing on long-term profitability rather than often unsustainable exponential growth. It is therefore essential for start-ups to strive for a balance between growth and profitability.

While in the beginning it’s tolerable – even interesting – to move forward in a “messy and strappy” way, structuring the company becomes crucial when it’s time to “scaler“. En effet, la méthode qui a initialement conduit au succès est rarement garante d’une croissance durable.

It is then essential to step back, evaluate and compare the current situation with the objectives to be achieved: is the product adaptable to a larger scale? Are the necessary technical resources and human skills available?

We’ll need to provide support in terms of revealing the people in place, reorganizing the organization chart, and setting up processes and automation. The good news here is that startups are already accustomed to an environment in perpetual transformation, and face less inertia than large companies, which is an advantage in terms of responsiveness.

The importance of human aspects for scaling

A survey of 869 early-stage start-up managers reveals that their main concerns are recruiting new talent, followed closely by the evolution of the company’s culture. However, when asked how they spend their time on a day-to-day basis, they admit that most of their activities are devoted to product development and management. In fact, a third of them admit to devoting more than 30% of their time to it, whereas recruitment only takes up 20% of their working time.

And yet the human aspects are just as crucial. The example of the “Balance ta start-up” movement, which shook up French Tech in 2021 by highlighting anonymous testimonials denouncing abusive managerial practices within these young companies, is a striking illustration. The youth of the teams, the lack of experience, the lack of structure, may have led to the mirage that no conscious effort was needed to cultivate the human side. However, a company becomes “human” because it has chosen it, cultivated it, and maintained a certain rigor in social relations over time.

Our main message is as follows: if you don’t integrate these essential elements during the transition phase of your scale-up, you’ll be scaling up your problems. So it’s crucial to reinforce alignment around the new objectives and roadmap, placing the company’s values at the heart of every decision.


How to manage human issues in a start-up

Seeing the human side beyond recruitment

As a start-up grows, the importance of people goes far beyond the recruitment process. Rather, it’s a profound recognition of the team’s collective energy, creativity and ability to bring the entrepreneurial project to fruition. Investors themselves place a premium on team cohesion when evaluating a start-up for investment.
It is therefore essential to structure human resources holistically. This encompasses not only recruitment, but also the onboarding process, and the ongoing transmission of the company’s values, vision and DNA. Regularly aligning behaviors, rituals and decision-making structures with the company’s values is a key element in maintaining team cohesion.
Empowering teams is also crucial, and requires the provision of methods, tools and concrete opportunities to put them into practice. Striking a balance between continuous innovation and the stabilization and industrialization of operations is a constant but essential challenge in human resources management.

Cultivating conscious, enlightened leadership

Start-up managers face unique pressures, because unlike in large companies, where pressure can be diffused through multiple hierarchical levels, in a start-up every decision and action on their part can have an immediate and significant impact on the company’s success or failure.

Managers have to juggle multiple tasks under tight deadlines, especially in areas where they are not experts. It is therefore essential for them to recognize their limits and be ready to seek help when needed.

Accepting one’s own vulnerability and actively seeking support can not only help overcome individual challenges, but also strengthen the cohesion and resilience of the whole team. In this process, the leader learns to be responsible for the result, while not being the one to deliver everything, thus forging trust within the team.

How can you effectively manage a continuous improvement dynamic within startups?

OKR (Objectives and Key Results) strategy workshops clarify long-term objectives and break them down into measurable key results, facilitating rigorous progress monitoring. The OKR method is particularly useful for aligning team efforts with the company’s overall vision, encouraging each member to make a significant contribution to the achievement of common goals.

The use of the RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) model, meanwhile, clarifies roles and responsibilities in projects, ensuring that every action and decision is taken into consideration by the right people. This reduces confusion and overlapping responsibilities, optimizing operational efficiency.

These workshops are part of the Ninja School of Transformation program, an initiative that encourages innovation and the testing of new ideas without fear of failure, a crucial aspect in the fast-paced and often unpredictable environment of startups. The Ninja program helps establish a culture of continuous learning and adaptability, and enables managers to understand what posture to adopt, and how to contribute to scale-up success.

In addition, the establishment of good governance bodies provides a framework and guarantees that operations are carried out successfully, reinforcing the confidence of investors, customers and employees.

As such, these practices are not simply management tools, but essential pillars for building a resilient and adaptive organization, ready to grow sustainably in a competitive market.

Why use coaching in start-ups?

Although many entrepreneurs are accustomed to a “do-it-yourself” mentality, the use of coaching can provide invaluable support in such a demanding environment. Simply stepping back and having a safe bubble to discuss your concerns can have a huge impact on clarity and decision making.

By providing a space to verbalize problems and explore solutions, coaching can help managers identify invisible obstacles and develop concrete action plans.

What’s more, start-up coaching is not limited to solving immediate problems, but aims to strengthen the skills and resilience of managers and their teams to successfully navigate an ever-changing environment. It’s an investment in human capital that can lead to results and sustainable corporate growth.

Have you created your start-up and achieved your first successes? Do you want to ensure the long-term future of your business and build tomorrow’s model, while retaining the spirit, dynamism, adaptability and capacity for innovation of a start-up? Your challenge is to preserve your DNA, develop a growth strategy in line with your ambitions and develop your leadership skills to get your teams on board?

With our Unicorn Factory, we support you in maintaining the balance between your corporate culture and the transformations necessary for continued growth.

More than a consulting firm, Connection Leadership is your partner in holistic transformation. Our approach, based on transversality and pragmatism, brings you all the necessary elements to co-construct the transformation of your company. This co-construction is carried out with all levels of the company to improve collective commitment. Our coaching and transformation programs are designed to bring impact and concrete results, ultimately empowering you in your transformation.