I was searching for a new project. Something special, something with purpose, and something that needed my type of expertise. You can imagine how thrilled I was to stumble across Care to Translate, a very promising Swedish health tech startup, and even happier to be able to join as co-founder and Chief Growth Officer last year!
I’ve never had the official title CGO before, but I am very familiar with the tasks it involves: to achieve growth, you can either optimize internal workflows and processes (work smarter, faster, and cheaper), or you can grow your turnover by reaching out to more customers, optimizing your income/business model, or targeting new customer segments and markets. In a perfect world you do both, which will, if you do it right, result in greater positive effects overall. And to be very generic: that is what I am aiming for.
Some of you might know that I worked within the field of architecture a few years back. Well actually, more than 10 years have already passed since I sat at the drawing board designing buildings… Afterward, I worked as a management consultant a couple of years before founding my first tech startup.
These are three completely different fields to work in, you might think, but for me they have more similarities than differences. In all three you go from envisioning something new, to designing it, and then planning how to realize your vision. After the plan is made you start building, and finally (hopefully) you implement it. No matter if it is a house, a strategic project, or an entire company – some things might be more or less complex though. To do this well, structure can be quite helpful. Also, I like structure – after all I am 50% German 😉 So wherever I go, structure will follow.
Over the past years I have therefore gathered a toolbox that helps me put the right structure in place really fast, to be able to start working on internal optimization and external growth. Today I want to share some of my findings with you on how you can build a solid foundation for growing your organization!
Do you need structure in startups? YES. Of course, you need structure.
To be able to run fast, be creative, and synchronize the team it is very important to have the right structures in place, I believe. But note: the right structure!
The need of structure might differ depending on what industry you work in, what product or services you develop, how big your organization is, etc. Also: do not forget about the human factor and the needs of the individuals that shape your teams and organization. They are the backbone of everything!
If you haven’t started yet and want to implement structure, these are the most important pillars for ensuring optimized operations (according to me), and they fit (probably) all organizations:
You need to have a clear vision and a solid plan to get closer to your vision. I do not believe that startups need plans longer than a maximum of 18 months. We actually work with a detailed 1-year plan at Care to Translate. This might need to be adjusted as you grow, of course.
Breaking down your plan into milestones and tagging them with clear owners within the organization will make it easier to understand what to prioritize and when, and who is in charge of making them happen.
To actually achieve your milestones (and by that your yearly plan which brings you closer to your vision), you need an effective workflow that synchronizes the team, makes progress visible to all team members, and enables fast iterations and testing as well as evaluations and optimizations. Personally, I find that SCRUM is the perfect tool for this, not only for software development but for organization/project development overall. We have modified it somewhat to fit Care to Translate, but we follow the generic principles that include sprint, sprint planning, daily scrum, sprint review, sprint retrospective, and backlog refinement.
As you start working you will find the need to document some of your processes, either because your team is growing and you need to streamline, or you have need for optimization, or you need to collaborate with other teams and define how. Always try to describe the generic process on a higher level, go into details only if needed.
KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) demonstrate how effectively your company is achieving key business objectives and helps you evaluate your success at reaching your targets.
Structure in itself will not be worth much if you don’t incorporate it in your operational routines. It won’t make you work better and faster if it’s a nice drawing laying in a box. The entire organization needs to breathe and live it. There are lots of tools that can help you incorporate structure in your workflow.
The tools we use at Care to Translate help us document, structure, and prioritize activities. They help us to communicate and to be transparent throughout the entire organization. They help us to navigate and verify if we are on the right track (according to our vision, our plan and the fast moving market around us). They are not a burden, but an enabler. You should never use tools that add to your workload.
I will list the tools we use below (note: this is not a paid ad, and I am certain that there are substitutes that work just as well):
Google Suite: transparency platform
Slack: transparent communication and support for sprints (daily standups)
Trello: planning tool
Databox / Amplitude: KPIs and customer insights
The more you grow – the longer time it will take to implement structures and get everyone on board and familiar with them.
I have nothing to add here actually. If you don’t know where to start, please check the section above. If you find it too overwhelming, note this: it will never get easier, only harder. If you need help getting started – please reach out!
I hope you found this post helpful.