That Awkward Age: Transitioning from Start Up to Corporate

When you’re running a start up you have to be ready for the initial surge of hyperactivity. In the early months things move incredibly quickly as acquire interested investors, new specialist staff, and clients who are eager for your services. You grow quickly, and every day brings a new challenge.

After a few years have passed, if you’ve been successful and you’ve chosen to remain with the company you’ll find yourself facing a different kind of challenge. Transitioning from an agile start-up to an established, professional corporate company is tricky. There aren’t just logistical challenges to face, you also need to change your company culture. Start ups can effectively harness the energy of a small, committed team of specialists, who are prepared to work all hours because of their belief in the product and in it’s eventual success. Bigger companies need to regularise their culture: they need a big workforce to maintain the success of their initial product, service a large client base and keep innovating. You need to manage that workforce, tracking time off due to illness, making sure people are taking their mandated level of holiday and making sure an appraisal and development scheme is in place to maintain morale and make sure you’re getting the most out of your staff.

For someone who’s used to running a small team, motivated by passion this can be a really big change. You’re used to running investor meetings and developing prototypes, not asking your head of HR to look into the cheap training room hire London can offer to train your CS team.

One of the ways to help deal with this cultural change is to hire a COO. The role of the Chief Operating Officer is a difficult one to define, because it’s decided entirely by the relationship between them and their CEO. They exist to supplement areas where a CEO isn’t as strong or experienced and are some of the most productive partnerships in the business world.

Hiring someone to work with you as a COO who has more experienced with mature businesses can help to set your company on the right footing for the long haul. Between your experience with agile start up culture, and their advocacy for traditional corporate practices you can strike a balance that helps your business fit in among the long runners, while retaining some of that promethean start up fire that will propel you to greater and greater heights.

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