Growing your team beyond your comfort zone

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In the past 4 months, our team has grown by seven (!!!) full-time team members and five contractors at Teak & Twine. All-in-all, our team has TRIPLED since one year ago today.

After spending years as a “small but mighty” team of four, it’s absolutely mind-blowing to look around a morning meeting and (depending on the amount of production going on that day) see up to TWENTY faces looking back at me!!

Experts don’t typically recommend growing a team this quickly, but I’m so glad I did. After YEARS of stunting our growth with uber-conservative hiring, I am now getting just a taste (it’s only been a few months, after all) of our potential. It’s also made me think long and hard about some things I’ve believed about having a “big” team that are at least partially untrue. (I put “big” in quotes because obviously, we’re still tiny!)

Here are the things I’ve always associated with having a “big” team:

1) Big = not fun

Up until very recently, I totally believed that what I loved about entrepreneurship– the freedom, the flexibility, the FUN, the “working with my friends” feeling– was only possible because we were tiny, and that growing meant giving that up. My team (rightfully!) makes fun of me about declaring at a company-wide planning meeting a few years ago: “I don’t ever want to be making more than $X million dollars a year, because after that, it won’t be fun anymore–it’ll be just ‘hairnets in an airplane hangar.'” (WHERE DO I COME UP WITH THIS STUFF??) One year later, we had blasted through that milestone and all agreed we were having more fun than ever!

What I’ve realized since then is that for me, $10M/$15M/$20M might always seem scary and “not fun,” but also that the yardline for what seems scary just keeps moving. Two steps down the road might seem nerve-wracking, but I know that I want to be better tomorrow than I am today, and even better the day after that. 

When I keep taking the next step, after a few months I look up and can’t believe where I am. As important as long-term goals are, I find that I’m able to be more aggressive with my short term goals (I love quarterly goals!) and then surprise myself a year later with how far we’ve come.

2) Big = huge payroll = losing money

This is one of the dumbest things I have believed. Whenever I thought about hiring early on, I would bust out one of those spreadsheets I love so much, run the payroll numbers based on where we were at right at that moment sales-wise, and then declare, “I guess we can’t hire that new person!” FACEPALM. Every person I hire is growing our bottom line, because I’ve intentionally structured their responsibilities that way. 

Now I see that big = an incredible group of people coming up with incredible ideas and getting more done than I ever imagined possible! Has our payroll increased SIGNIFICANTLY since last year? Yes. But we’re also on track to triple revenue from last year. So, so worth it.

3) Big = more work for me

“Sure,” I told myself, “you can take your kids to school and come home early if you want to because you’re small, but if you were ever as big as X, or making as much as Y, then all of that freedom would go away! You’d sit in meetings all day and every person you hired would just make the treadmill go faster and faster…”

Nope, wrong again. 

Have you ever taken a “fake” vacation from running your business? You know, where you don’t come into the office, but of course you’re still checking your inbox and of course you’re still responding to customers because I mean… duh! I am a master of fake vacations and fake days off. “I only work four days a week!” I would declare, meaning that one day a week I would spend the day at home… working.

Now, I take REAL days off. No, not as many as I should, but I do it for real. I am no longer running the day-to-day at Teak & Twine, which gives me more time to think big, or, ya know, launch another company, and occasionally to go home and eat a popsicle with the boys before heading back to the office.

4) Big = the size of my team +3

The Small Business Administration defines a “small” business as one that has under 500 employees– meaning that in the past year we’ve gone from being a microscopic company to being a still microscopic company. 🙂 What I’ve realized now is that if you’d asked me at any point since I started Teak & Twine what “big” was, I would have defined it as “whatever size I was at plus three people,” which is pretty hilarious. “Big” is just a euphemism for “out of my current comfort zone,” and I’m working hard on being ok with that discomfort. 

5) If you do X, it means you’re “big”- ick!

Here is a random smattering of things I weirdly (or not so weirdly) associated with “being big” in a partially negative way and that I now do/have (or will soon have) and ABSOLUTELY LOVE: 

  • An all-hands morning meeting
  • Calling myself the “CEO” of Teak & Twine instead of just the “Founder” (ok, this one still feels awkward)
  • Defined start, break, and lunch times
  • An assembly line for production (with a quality control role)
  • Gravity rollers
  • A loading dock
  • A dedicated payroll system
  • Saying the words “inter-team-empathy” 
  • A health care plan
  • Using google calendar
  • Meetings, meetings, meetings
  • Creating a staff “birthday tracker” (still terrible at this SORRY CHRISTINA HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!)
  • Am I about to buy the “hang in there” kitten poster for our break room??? Ok, maybe not 🙂

I’m so curious, what does “big” mean to you? Do you think Teak & Twine is big? Do you believe any of the above things yourself? Do you want to be big, or do you find yourself shying away from it even as you grow? Do you have any weird things that you associate with “being big” in a negative way?

Thinking big,

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