Scaling Startups: Staying Alive, Staying Ahead

In the startup world, staying alive is just as important as staying ahead. We discussed how you can strengthen your startup’s strategy in our last post, so now we’ll explore why some startups succeed and how they begin scaling their ventures.

Let’s begin by examining the terms growing and scaling in context of expanding a business; the words are sometimes used interchangeably, but they describe completely different situations.

Growing vs. Scaling

Growing – adding revenue at the same rate you’re adding resources. Consider the example of a gym that hires one personal trainer for every 3 customers – no matter how many new customers join, they’ll always be hiring new personal trainers to service their growing customer base. The amount of resources required increases as their customer base increases – this company is growing, but it’s not scaling.

Scaling – adding revenue at at a rapid rate while adding resources incrementally. Consider the example of a software company that’s just finished developing a new product – the costly work is done, and distributing the product to their customers costs next to nothing. The amount of of resources required doesn’t change as their customer base increases, driving consistent growth and improving profit margins.

“The Single Biggest Reason Why Start-ups Succeed”

Bill Gross is the brain behind Idealab, a startup factory founded in 1996. The “technology incubator” has created over 150 companies with more than 45 IPOs since its inception. Gross’s familiarity with the startup world led him to question and research why some ventures are successful while others fail, so he analyzed 200 different companies and rated the quality of what he considered the five most critical attributes of any business on a scale of 1-10. The five attributes were:

  • The idea – is there a market for the services/product you’re selling?
  • The team – is your team intelligent, determined, and capable enough?
  • The business model – is there a clear path to generate customer revenue?
  • The funding – did your company receive private funding? 
  • The timing – too early and the world isn’t ready, or too late and there’s too many competitors?

Gross revealed his findings in a 2015 Ted Talk – this is a smaller study so it’d be wise to take the results with a grain of salt, but Gross’s analysis showed that timing was the most critical factor as to whether or not a company succeeded; specifically, timing accounted for 42% of the difference between failure and success

After months and years of exhausting work, the last thing you want to find is that the market requesting your services is much smaller than anticipated, or that you’ve arrived to the party too late. Of course, the idea and the team behind it will make or break a startup – but the market has to be ready for your company before anything but breaking can occur.

When you’re sure the market is ready for your company, it’s time to consider how you plan to scale it.

Tips for Scaling Your Startup

Building an in-house talent management function may seem like a poor use of resources when you’re getting your business off the ground, but you’ll struggle to scale without a detailed hiring and onboarding process in place – the last thing you want is to end up a “$50 million dollar company in the body of a $5 million dollar organization“. In one of his recent articles, Ron Carucci outlined a few startup talent strategy tips entrepreneurs can use to keep candidates flowing in as their companies grow.

Don’t just hire for right now. Think about the talent your startup will need 6 months from now, a year from now, and 18 months from now. If you only ever hire for your immediate needs, within a year you’ll be left with employees without the skillsets you need to continue growing.

Identify the skills you need to grow to find the right people. Careful consideration should be given when considering candidates – the skills that will most benefit your startup won’t always be found on a resume. Carucci recommends looking into three areas when considering a new hire: their leadership and people skills, their experience in their given discipline, and whether or not they have the emotional maturity to continue learning.

Develop scalable roles for talented employees/future candidates. Carucci explains, “The common mayhem of the startup world isn’t permanent, and moving from jacks-of-all-trades generalists to more specialized roles is inevitable.” Consider today how you want your startup to look a few years from now – what types of positions will you need to fill? Creating a succession plan early on will save you time and money you’d otherwise spend hiring and training new employees.

Consult this exhaustive list of tools and resources for more startup tips – from upfront operation costs, to social media marketing, to helpful legal information, you can find it all here.


Do you agree that timing is the most critical factor when it comes to creating a successful startup? Leave a comment on our LinkedIn or Facebook pages and let us know what you think!


If you’re in search of talent consulting or recruiting services and could use help determining your business needs, contact our team of experienced talent acquisition consultants now. 

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The Gamification of Talent Acquisition

In the talent acquisition industry techniques and trends rise quickly, but can fall just as fast. Within the past year the term ‘gamification’ has become a buzzword and there is debate as to whether it is embedded into the world of talent acquisition to stay or if it is a flashy tech-trend with little staying power. The term ‘gamification’ was first introduced in 2010 when it was added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary and defined as, “the process of adding games or game-like elements to something (as a task) so as to encourage participation.” This concept has been applied to corporate strategies for identifying talent, selecting qualified candidates and retaining employees.

While the concept of gamification seems simple, if it is not executed correctly, it may produce minimal results. LinkedIn’s Talent Blog investigated five different companies that are successfully using gamification as a talent strategy. These five companies all utilize gamification for three specific reasons: to identify talent, to select talent and to improve talent retention.
LinkedIn cites the use of gamification to identify talent by Google and Dominos. As referenced in the blog, Google hosts ‘Google Code Jam,’ a software-writing competition, and invites developers and engineers to compete for monetary prizes. Google uses a social setting and prizes to attract talent, assemble them and then tests their skills via competition with their peers. Genius? No, just gamification of recruitment. Similarly, Dominos uses gamification to identify talent early in the job search process via an application. They utilize an application where users can create and sell their pizza creations. Dominos wants to attract fun, creative and innovate candidates and a ‘game’ does just that. Google and Dominos, while very different in their business models, both utilize a gamification strategy to attract and identify their specific talent pools.

Other companies, such as U.K Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the British Intelligence and Security Agency, and Umbel, a big-data start-up, are utilizing gamification as a way to select candidates and promote self-select out of the process. GCHQ created a website where candidates are directed to crack an encrypted message. Cracking the code allows them to advance in the interviewing process. Not only does this allow GCHQ to test candidate’s skills, but also allows candidates to self-select out of the process if they realize their skills do not match the desired skills of the employer. Umbel created a gaming challenge in which amateur and professional coders fight in a first-person face-off where they code each of their physical movements. As they ‘fight’ within the game they are winning points, which factor into how far they advance in the interviewing process. Being able to see how coding skills match up against other professionals allows candidates to highlight their skill-set and self-select out if they feel they are not the right fit for the company.

Gamification also has been used for employee retention. Formapost, the French postal service, was struggling with new hire retention. When retention numbers are low for recent hires, it may allude to problems within the hiring process. To combat this, Formapost decided to utilize gamification and create a game where candidates could simulate a Formapost employee to gain a deeper understanding of that employee’s day-to-day responsibilities and duties. Creating this simulation allowed candidates to better grasp the position so if they were offered the position and assumed the role, their expectations were met and, in turn, they stayed with the company longer, meaning increasing new hire retention for Formapost.

While some argue that gamification may just be a trend within the talent acquisition industry, over the last five years its popularity as a strategy has spread to high-profile organizations, such as Google, as well as the start-up community. Utilizing gamification correctly has helped organizations identify talent, select candidates, and retain employees with proven results. The Aberdeen Group notes gamification impact in a survey stating “…organizations with gamification in place improve engagement by 48%, as compared to 28% with those who do not, and improve turnover by 36% as compared to 25%.” What gamification techniques has your company deployed to identify, attract or retain talent?

Creating a Great Corporate Culture: Part 1-Physical Work Environment

Sure, we have all seen pictures and videos of the infamous Google Complex out in sunny California. The endless stretches of glass, the flashes of blues, reds, yellows, and greens, and of course, the impossibly cool lounge areas and conference rooms—but does this amazing physical work environment result in a great company culture?

The answer is no – well, not by itself. While trendy offices tend to offer higher curb appeal than drab ones, the physical environment is not necessarily what creates the energy needed for an exciting corporate culture. However, it can be the catalyst that sparks interaction, collaboration, and communication—three crucial elements in a growing company.

Greg Schott, the CEO of MuleSoft, a growing technology integration company out of San Francisco, is a huge proponent of corporate culture, and his insights will be featured often throughout this blog series.

“… The physical work environment is symbolic of how a company is thinking about the importance of their people and the workplace,” Schott said in Episode 20 of The Future of Work Podcast, “There can be great energy anywhere, but it [the physical environment] is indicative of a management team thinking of their people first.”

One of the most important elements in creating a dynamic corporate culture is belief: belief in the management team, belief in the vision of the company, and belief in the work that is being produced by that company. That belief is what helps you form your employer brand—in other words, the way you market your company to potential employees. Perhaps it could stem from the physical environment. Does your work space promote interaction, or collaboration? Is it an exciting place to come work day in and day out? Does it look like the management team puts an effort into promoting a comfortable work environment? These are some of the questions to ask when you are creating that physical office space.

However, that office also needs to be filled with people that are a good cultural fit, so tailor the office space to attract the type of minds that fit the vision of the company. A more open, collaborative environment might attract employees that thrive in team-oriented organizations, while an office with closed doors and isolation might attract employees that are more introverted and individualist. One isn’t necessarily better than the other, but it is important that the office space supports the talent you want to attract.

Culture is cultivated in the physical workspace. The office space may not be the most important aspect of creating your corporate culture, but it is a physical symbol of the vision and direction of a company that can attract the talent you need to take your company to the next level.

Want to learn more about creating a great corporate culture? Visit our Talent Acquisition Consulting Solutions page to learn how ORS can define and locate the talent you need.


Written By: Christopher Eberhardt