How to structure your start-up for success

Many entrepreneurs have such a single-minded focus on product or services success that they overlook the critical value of good management strategy. While it may seem absurd to put time into thinking about how you’ll grow your team in the early days when a handful of people can take care of everything, you need a plan for how you will scale with success and ensure consistency and quality as your demand rises and your staffing needs expand.

Your business model and pricing structure need to account for increased overheads as demand grows. Many start-ups with a great idea, ample investment, and excellent products or services fail within their first few years of business because the founder wasn’t prepared for the increased leadership and management challenges that come with success.

Your start-up can suffer from the opposite problem: expanding your team too soon in preparation for growth can mean crippling overhead expenses if demand doesn’t scale up as projected. Choose the right structure and build your plans with contingencies and risk-awareness in mind. A good business plan defines the paths you’ll take depending on the conditions that emerge.

Every start-up is unique, so start by taking an inventory of your product or service, market, and current stability. What kind of staffing, production, or overhead investments are required simply to operate? What would you need to expand? What would happen if your orders suddenly dropped off a cliff, or if the market experienced a downturn?

Always start planning from a position of verifiable data. Then you can review available strategies and select the best ones for your actual and projected situation.

For those who need a wide variety of specialist skills but aren’t at the scale where full-time roles for each of those specialties are a feasible option, consider a part-time, remote, and/or contract arrangement in order to access necessary skills without the pressure to find a full-time salary or push staff to cover other areas for which they’re less well adapted.

Operating in a city with high rents? If so, remote employees can help you whittle down space costs. Need bodies on the ground for production, but struggle to maintain consistent workload? Consider a mix of on-site contract and salaried employees. The same thing goes for services in an industry where demand varies. You can bring in a contractor for a short-term specialist project or to meet a surge in demand, without the burden of a full HR cycle, salaries, and benefits, etc.

Start-ups want the best people at the best price to create the finest products or services. Understanding your unique value proposition is key to developing a suitable structure for your start-up. You may put the emphasis on customer service, and invest more in having a stable, full-time, on-site roster of client advisors or service managers to offer consistency and quality in the customer experience. Alternately, you might find that a collection of remote workers across multiple time zones offers continuous service to customers without putting impossible demands on your staff. You might prioritize the creative energy of having a team in the same room, sharing ideas and pushing each other to innovate and succeed, or you might focus on the cost savings of off-site, contract employees and beneficial exchange rates.

The structural choices you make will contribute to your company culture, which has an impact on both employee and customer satisfaction and retention. Consider what goals you have in a philosophical sense when it comes to company culture, and what outcomes you hope to achieve. You may envision your team as an extended family, tightly knit and supportive, or as efficient parts in a system, each working on a specialist, defined task. These choices may be partially influenced by your preferences but should also be held up against measurable success factors—you’ll need to consider what will produce the best results in both experiences, and for the bottom line.

A start-up with a structure that emphasizes salaried part- or full-time employees will necessitate an HR hire reasonably early on in your development. If your structure leans toward specialist and/or remote contractors, you’ll have other challenges to consider. Utilizing an Umbrella PAYE company to deal with the administration of contractor tax affairs can lift some of the burdens of paperwork and save time. An umbrella company that specializes in making the relationship between employers and contractors more secure and streamlined is a valuable asset for any company.

The best structure for your start-up is one that takes into account the type of work you do, your culture, and your goals. It may include on-site or remote and full-time, part-time, or contract employees, or—more likely—a mix of all of the above that can flex and adjust as you grow and evolve. Plan in order to secure the best outcomes and quickly adapt to changing demand.

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