Scaling a Startup by Giving “Keys to the Ferrari”

It’s a great feeling when you are growing fast and your business is going gangbusters. I recently published a post about how my startup hit $1 million in ARR within nine months. My co-founders and I got a lot of questions about how we built our company, Terminus, and developed our culture, the hiring process, and, well, almost everything. Today I want to talk about our most recent milestone: we just reached 100 customers and our product is less than a year old! Here’s our hypothesis as to why we have been growing so fast and not breaking anyone on the team.

We give each new hire “keys to the Ferrari.”

We have been (and will be for awhile) a very lean, agile, and flat organization. Everyone is empowered to make decisions and move forward. We tell every new hire on the first day, “Here are the keys to the Ferrari and now drive as fast as you possibly can. It’s yours to crash or yours to get to the top speed, in whatever direction you want to go.” Of course, we don’t literally give them a Ferrari, but the idea is catching on fairly quickly. Each new hire knows he/she has the autonomy and authority to do things their way, as long as the core values of the company are not compromised. We want our team to know that we’re here to support, guide, and mentor each individual, but the “Ferrari” is ultimately each employee’s responsibility to drive.

Our “Terminators” taking a Ferrari for a spin. (Thanks to Chau at HireWire!)

So to help support and promote this idea of Ferrari, we want to provide a bit more structure for our team. We want each “Terminator” to know to who can help them to get the Ferrari to the top speed, driving as fast as he or she can on the open road. As co-founders, we realized that each of us bears a responsibility for one (or more) of the key departments in our organization. As we continue to grow and scale, our employees need to know who they report to in the company…in case something breaks on the Ferrari.

If you have been following the journey of Terminus, you know we’re all about banking 2,000% of our individual strengths and leveraging the talent of our team members. Here’s a post about our team’s roles, responsibilities, and all the hustle from our “Terminators”. It’s all about helping Terminators get where they want to go, and not where I or any of the executive team thinks we should go.

Now that we hit 100 customers, we had to start thinking about how to scale our organization, retaining the values that matter the most to us while moving onward and upward. We recently had a team meeting; we call it the “squad” meeting to discuss what needs to change as we keep growing at such a rapid space.

Here are the six things we need to change as we scale beyond 100 customers.

  1. Team setup: We need to change our office layout to accommodate calls for Sales and Customer Success teams. We want people to enjoy time with each other and also be productive to achieve their goals. This might seem simple and obvious but it’s imperative for certain roles like our Customer Success Managers and Software Engineers to have their own space to work and get shit done!
  2. Cross-functional activities: We need to do more cross-functional lunches so teams can understand each other roles beyond their team. It makes working with everyone way easier when we know more about each other. Everyone knows, I love Scotch and that’s one way to get me going :) but it’s important in a startup to learn more about your colleagues in other departments since we’re such a small, tightly knit team.
  3. Bottom-Up leadership: We need to empower every team member to become a leader. We want our “Terminators” to take it upon themselves to do team activities and not wait for something to be scheduled. Of course, we will do monthly lunches and quarterly outings, but teams have the open opportunity to do more activities. For example, to take a half day for an afternoon and the park, have lunch, and play some games doesn’t cost much and it can be refreshing and engaging.
  4. Slack it: We need to start using the application Slack a lot more. If you haven’t heard of Slack, you must try it. Our Engineering and Marketing teams live on Slack, but the other teams have not adopted it yet, so we are planning to do a company lunch & learn to share how we can enable the entire company to start “Slacking”. I like to say, if you aren’t Slacking, you aren’t working.
  5. Co-founders need to get real: Each co-founder will work directly with two specific departments so we could remove roadblocks and do 1-on-1 conversations with team leads. This way no department feels like they’re isolated and alone on an island and as co-founders, we get to work with teams and problems that we can have the most impact on.
  6. Redefining core values: Probably the most important thing that is near and dear to me is how we want to change our core values from Positive, Supportive, and Self-Starting to something more specific. We had these core values as a starting point (like many other companies in the Atlanta Tech Village) and we that we are growing up we need to redefine our cover values to match our unique, passionate, and highly motivated team dynamic that is all about the hustling and making magic in the moments.

Now here are four things that will not change…ever!

  1. Keys to Ferrari: That exists and will remain part of our culture of hiring our Terminators. No one here is an employee but a leader, and we want to remember this forever.
  2. Our culture of respect and trust with one another: We continue to make sure we have this as part of the DNA in every single person we hire. There is no substitute for respect and trust.
  3. Passion for the problem we are solving: Every new hire realizes very quickly that we are on a quest to solve a real problem. Less than 1% of B2B leads turn into customers. We talk about this daily and it allows us to use it as a lens to remain laser-focused on our mission, especially when things get a little hectic.
  4. Belief in the vision: We believe in flipping funnels and challenging the status quo of B2B Marketing and Sales. We believe in helping B2B Marketers become heroes in their organizations.

I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback about how we can maintain our culture of giving Terminators keys to the Ferrari. What else should we be thinking about? What should we absolutely not change?

*Originally featured on LinkedIn Pulse

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