June 20, 2024

Growing teams, from startup to scale-up: challenges of sustainable growth

Startups aim for growth with agile teams. As they scale, they must balance structured management with innovation, focusing on leadership and adaptability.

In today's fast-paced tech world, the primary goal for startups is growth. From creating an initial idea to scaling operations, the journey is replete with challenges. A critical aspect of this path is growing teams, which comes with complexities like hiring and nurturing talent, fostering culture, and sustaining rapid expansion.

Startups often outshine larger companies due to their adaptability, less bureaucratic structure, and diverse roles. They can swiftly adjust to market changes, make quicker decisions, and offer employees faster skill development, enhancing their learning curve. However, this agility comes at a cost, as they heavily rely on improvisation and experimentation, potentially leading to inefficiencies, inconsistencies, and operational bottlenecks that hamper the company's growth.

The importance of the Core Team

The core team forms the backbone of any startup. They are the group of individuals who, from the beginning, lay the foundation, shape the company's values, and steer the startup’s direction. Consequently, it is vital that each core team member is an 'A player'.

'A players' are individuals who exhibit exceptional talent, demonstrate high levels of motivation and adaptability, and can contribute significantly to the company's goals. They are often characterized by their ability to solve complex problems, their leadership qualities, knack for innovating and thinking outside the box.

The impact that the core team has on the company’s success cannot be understated. They set the tone for the entire organization, influence its culture, and are the driving force behind its growth. Therefore, having a core team of 'A players' can often be the difference between a startup's success and failure.

Characteristics of a Core Team Member

  • Exceptional talent and skills relevant to their role
  • High levels of motivation and dedication to the company's mission
  • Quick adaptability to changes and challenges
  • Significant contributions toward achieving the company's goals
  • Innovative thinking and the ability to solve complex problems

What Happens Beyond the Core Team?

Once a team exceeds 15-20 individuals, management becomes challenging and time- consuming, potentially distracting team members from the actual productive work that drives value for the product or service.

ArkusNexus has worked with many startups/SMBs during their growth stage, even hypergrowth stage, battling these difficulties. After many years, ArkusNexus has validated the following key points for them to focus:

   Core process / Core frameworks  
  • There are massive coordination costs associated with company-wide processes, and if senior management imposes too many, chances are that employees and managers will devote their time and headspace to following processes instead of developing new ideas and getting work done. The benefits of uniformity must also outweigh the benefits of variability, and there aren't too many structures that, when standardized, benefit the entire company.

        Core process should apply only to the following areas:

  • Foundations and planning for the resources and goals.
  • A comprehensive hiring approach
  • Intentional team development
  • Feedback and performance mechanisms
   Leadership development  
  • As the organization expands, it should invest in developing strong leaders who can inspire and motivate teams amid change and uncertainty. Providing opportunities for mentorship, coaching, and leadership training is essential to nurture internal talent.
  • Management roles need to identify leadership competencies, develop a leadership development plan and carry out continuous feedback mechanisms to improve performance overall.  
   Fostering a culture of innovation  
  • Encouraging experimentation and risk-taking within the organization is crucial. Celebrating both successes and failures as valuable learning experiences is paramount. Leaders should celebrate learning moments, empower employees to challenge the status quo, and establish programs or initiatives that encourage experimentation and risk-taking. By fostering a culture of innovation, companies can stay ahead of the curve and adapt to changing market conditions.

The Final Stretch

After all the sacrifices and efforts made by the core team to reach hypergrowth status, planning the company’s next steps is pivotal to avoid mistakes. The bittersweet reality is that there’s no magic guidebook for hypergrowth. Each company's path is as unique as a fingerprint, requiring a mix of precise map-making and wise navigation. Therefore, it is essential for companies to embrace adaptability and resilience, be strategic about talent acquisition and retention, and continuously seek innovation and evolution.

In this final stretch, companies must maintain a delicate balance between embracing change and preserving the core values that brought them success. By continuously evolving their processes, developing strong leaders, and fostering a culture of innovation, companies can navigate the challenges of hypergrowth and emerge as industry leaders.


In today's tech landscape, growth is the goal for startups. Their agility and diverse roles allow them to adapt quickly, but heavy reliance on improvisation can lead to inefficiencies. A strong core team of 'A players' is crucial, exhibiting exceptional talent and driving the company's success.

As teams grow, management becomes challenging. Companies must focus on core processes and frameworks but avoid excessive bureaucracy and invest in leadership development to navigate uncertainty effectively. Additionally, fostering a culture of innovation involves celebrating both successes and failures.

After reaching hypergrowth, the journey continues with no clear roadmap. Companies need to embrace adaptability, prioritize talent acquisition and retention, and commit to continuous innovation and evolution, while maintaining a balance between embracing change and preserving their core values.

Case Study from Arkusnexus

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