People – Tips on managing personalities

David Mandell – People – Tips on managing personalities in an ever changing startup environment.

Businesses really go through several phases as they grow. Not to label them, but they’re pretty obvious. When you go from a couple of co-founders, and a couple of people, to 10 people, that’s a big switch. And when you go from 10 to 20 or 30, that’s another big switch… when you go from there to 100 or so… and the business will keep evolving and there’s a lot of growing pains at every stage of that growth. Some has to do with people not evolving into the titles or positions they hoped to be. Some has to do with just managing personalities, I think.

Managing personalities is always another one of the biggest jobs that the CEO has, so keeping people motivated… understanding the dynamics of the culture in an organization and how it works… and those things continually change as the company grows. Once you add workers that maybe aren’t in the same office, it becomes incredibly challenging, too. That’s one of our biggest challenges. We have 20 people here but we have people in New York and San Francisco… Boston… all around… and keeping them engrained with the culture, and understanding how we work as a company, is a huge, huge challenge and it’s expensive. We invest heavily to bring people in and out from there to here and here to there so there’s a lot of cross-cultural growth, and I think that’s a big challenge and a growing-pain that you’ll deal with as your company evolves.

Understanding that companies go through phases is a real awakening for a lot of first-time CEOs because they think, hey, we’re just going to work hard, play hard, build a business… Maybe that’s great for the first 6 months of your life, when you have 3 or 5 people but, actually, you have to grow up. You’ve got to put your big boy pants on, or your big girl pants, and understand that I’ve really got to grow our company, here.

And at different stages my company requires a different level of management, and a different perspective and, all of a sudden, you can’t just be buddy-buddy with everybody. You need to understand, how do I treat people with respect and keep them excited and interested, but also, the same way, manage them in a way that’s right for the company’s growth. And that’s a big challenge for a lot of first-time CEOs and start-up people. It’s completely different when it’s just 3 or 5 people in a room trying to build a business, than when you’re 20 or 30 people, and you need to manage it differently… so there’s a lot of growing pains there that CEOs and first-time start-up people go through and being aware of when those transitions occur is really the key.

And reaching out and getting advice and understanding that the way you did things yesterday might not be okay to do them tomorrow, because it’s a real learning process and you have to really be sensitive to that as the company evolves and changes.