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Essentials for scale-up success: Building a management team

A short mini-series looking at seven challenges every growing business faces – and how your peers are tackling them. 

At O2 we support start-ups and growing businesses through our work with organisations like Enterprise Nation and the ScaleUp Institute, as well as through Telefónica’s innovation hub, Wayra.

In our eBook, Seven Essentials for Scale-Up Success, we outline seven key challenges entrepreneurs must overcome in order to scale their business effectively. You can download your copy here.

This time we consider ways to build an effective management team.

To hear the thoughts of a business leader on the scale-up journey, we spoke to Ankur Modi, CEO of StatusToday. His tech start-up uses artificial intelligence to give companies insight into employee engagement, collaboration and wellbeing.

Anker left a career with Microsoft to start the business, with co-founder Mircea Danila-Dumitrescu, in 2015. The company expanded quickly, and now employs around 25 people in London, Ukraine and the USA. Investing and expanding the leadership was essential to support this growth. Anker’s approach was to consider each of the company’s key functions where leadership was required, such as commercial development, international expansion, and specific areas of product development.

Internal leadership training with experts

Wherever possible, the company’s strategy has been to grow people internally and recruit from within. Anker is proud that the current leadership team includes people who have been with the company since day one,who they trained and mentored.

Anker encourages hands-on training, finding projects that allow people to be accountable for things like profit & loss or managing budgets.

Three signs of an exceptional external leadership candidate

It isn’t always possible to recruit from within. For certain roles, the company has brought in people with specific skills or expertise in key areas. Initially Anker found this hard to do, either because of cultural fit or because the skills required were in short supply. However, the company has developed a way to find the right people by looking for three things:

1. The culture they’ve evolved in

Are they outcome-driven or effort-driven? When there’s a problem, are they the kind of person who just takes care of it? Or do they need a lot of external support and momentum? Cultural fit is critical.

2. Their level of expertise in their part of the tech industry

Innovation is vital to StatusToday, and based on internal rather than published research. Anker looks for people with a mindset that allows them to create something that doesn’t already exist, without requesting validation from external sources.

3. Their references

The company’s recruitment process involves extensive background conversations to understand how each person gets the job done. StatusToday operates as a team and, in Anker’s words “there are no heroes”.

So, he’s looking for people who understand the need to enable others.

“When bringing in senior hires from outside, remember the law of the shining star. When you see someone with an incredible profile, it’s tempting to bring them in. But it’s not about the person with the best profile; it’s about the best fit with what you’re trying to do.”

Ankur Modi, CEO of StatusToday

Growing the leadership team has allowed Anker and co-founder Mircea to step back from the day to day running of the business and focus on the strategy. On the product side for example, instead of focusing on bugs and minor features, they now focus on the product roadmap – where the product and the vision need to go.

“That kind of oversight would be almost impossible if we were still involved in the day-to-day.”

Ankur Modi

You can read about all seven challenges faced by leaders of scaling business – click here to download O2’s free eBook Seven Essentials for Scale-Up Success.

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