The Pace Of Growth: A Conversation With Michael Abbott

May 2014 | Riviera Partners

Growth is the goal of every business, but if it happens too quickly it can be a bad thing. Companies that are forced to hire a large number of employees over a short period of time often end up with under skilled people in key...

Growth is the goal of every business, but if it happens too quickly it can be a bad thing. Companies that are forced to hire a large number of employees over a short period of time often end up with under skilled people in key positions. There are ways to manage rapid team increases, but the ideal situation is to have enough time to place the best possible candidate into each role, so that your organization has a firm foundation from the very beginning.

An intimate group of up and coming industry professionals recently had the chance to sit down with Michael Abbott and discuss some of these issues. Abbott is an expert at rapid team scaling who is well known for his efforts at Twitter where he oversaw the expansion of their company from 45 employees up to over 400 in a period of two years.

In their talk, Abbott stressed that the best possible candidates are not always going to be randomly looking for a job when you need to fill multiple positions. With a startup you want to try and limit employee acquisition to a maximum of 15% – 20% growth per month. Anything beyond that can put undue stress on the company and lead to weaknesses in its structure.

When rapid growth is unavoidable there are some things that you can do to ease the operation. Getting a solid, regimented system in place is one of the keys to this. You need a rigorous interview process that will act like a gauntlet, both testing, and challenging potential employees. You should also try to identify candidates who are not only talented, but who also have a loyal team of talented people that they can bring with them.

Another thing to focus on is reducing the amount of time it takes for an employee to go from being hired, to becoming productive. Having a training program can streamline this process to some extent. Mentor programs can also help guide new employees as they navigate your organization. At the same time this gives you a chance to evaluate potential future leaders by noting those people who voluntarily and successfully take on mentoring roles.

Growth is a good thing for a company but it has to come at a pace that is healthy and measured. In extreme cases where rapid expansion it is unavoidable, implementing a regimental recruitment and interviewing process can help to avoid some potential pitfalls. It’s also important to have a system that quickly enables new employees to start contributing to the organization in a meaningful way.

Riviera regularly hosts fireside chats with some of the leading minds in tech. Recently a group of up and coming industry professionals had the chance to sit down with Michael Abbott of KPCB – this is the first of a series of posts recapping key insight.