Internal Communications in a Growing Startup

Around a year ago this guy turned up. I’ve learned a hell of a lot from him about doing my job as CEO of a fast growing company and I’m hoping to find the time to write more about some of that. But I’ll start with one of the most important lessons I’ve learned, and that’s a lesson about Internal Comms.

Permutations

When your business is small, say 3 people, the long-term and short-term goals are clear to everyone. You don’t need to make any effort to communicate them – everyone ‘just knows’ by virtue of the fact you’re all involved in everything. In internal 1:1 conversations there are only 3 possible combinations of participants: AB (that’s Person A & Person B), AC and BC. This means there is practically no room for confusion or ‘data corruption’.

But as the business grows, roles inevitably become more specialised and departments start to form. Adding just two more people to a team of 3 means that there will be 10 possible combinations of 1:1 conversations. Make it 10 people and you have a whopping 45 possible sets of conversation partners. Don’t believe me? Here they are:

AB AC AD AE AF AG AH AI AJ BC BD BE BF BG BH BI BJ CD CE CF CG CH CI CJ DE DF DG DH DI DJ EF EG EH EI EJ FG FH FI FJ GH GI GJ HI HJ IJ

We can’t go on like this!

KashFlow now employs over 30 people (435 combinations) and we’re fast approaching 40 (780!), but until last year I’d still been running the show as if there were 5 of us. I expected everyone to just ‘get it’. Looking back, I see now why that could never work. Once a business grows beyond 5 people you have to go out of your way to ensure that internal communications aren’t left to chance.

Things are very different now. Every two weeks I spend at least half a day in a structured meeting with my management team (yes, meetings ARE real work) and once a month I sit the whole company down in one room for a ‘CEO Update’ about what’s going on, what’s changed and how we’re performing.

The difference has been amazing. Everyone know’s what we’re doing and where we’re going, and a result of these changes is that we’re going to get there a lot faster.

Useful?

Must dash, I’ve got a CEO Update this afternoon that I need to prepare for. But if you’re interested in reading more about the challenges (and realisations!) of running a small business then I highly recommend reading Joel Gascoigne‘s (the founder of Buffer) posts at joel.is.

Or, if you find posts like this useful, drop me a quick comment to encourage me to make time to write some more about this stuff!

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