Your team has been successful precisely because it has the energy and potential that you have found and discovered. But the bigger it gets, the more clumsy and slow the processes in it become, until it starts to slow down in the market. As a Product Manager you know you can do more and you want to make your team move faster. So how to scale a team? How to do it in the shortest possible time, when you already have a large collective with established views and traditional processes?
Why scaling a team is important
The team structure is playing an increasingly important role in the development process. The management of modern corporations realizes the value and high return on investment in a great staff and begins to quickly hire new experienced members to the team. Now, this is not just a development stage, but part of the strategy.
Your employees are increasingly involved in strategic negotiations, which makes them too busy for their daily tasks. Changes are also taking place in the way your trainers interact with each other and with other teams.
You have to solve problems such as:
- growth of the staff;
- finding people with the right skills;
- creation of efficient work processes;
- improving the quality of the client’s results.
The goal of these changes is to create processes that reduce bureaucracy and overhead as gym teams scale.
Symptoms indicating that you need to scale your team
- Low efficiency. When the team was smaller, the processes in it were faster, and you managed to scale it and keep the financial results as high as possible. Now, with increasing sales, the business system is increasingly failing. The measures you implement do not solve the situation.
- Uncertainty. You and the management team are more likely to doubt the correctness of decisions and take less risk. The price of error has become higher, and at the same time, it seems that you are moving in the dark and do not know what to expect.
- Your customers go. As fast as you gain new customers, you start losing them or not gaining a new target pace. You try to provide value to them, but failures occur more often and consumers refuse your services. Your team is not experienced enough to fit the company’s size it has reached.
If leave it as it is
As a rule, a slowdown in growth is not a sign of market saturation, it is a symptom of non-competitiveness. Something is not working as well as before, and you may lose the successes that were difficult to achieve. A new level of company and long-term sustainability requires new efforts. If you do not know how to scale a team, if you do not grow, sooner or later you will start to roll back to where you started.
What results you will achieve afterward
- Finding ideas, business models, open niches for scaling, taking into account the availability of resources
- Development of new products/corporate startups
- Rebuilt organizational model for scaling
- Joint passage in action and results
- Development and involvement of the team, disclosure of its potential
- Creating a field for constructive dialogue between “owners and tops”
- Team drive
“The product companies in the world have figured out how to make constant quality improvements part of their essential DNA.” – Phil Libin, former CEO of Evernote.
Libin suggests moving quickly so as not to wait until a stormy ocean turns into lava. While the oceans can be more forgiving in terms of the timeline, the lava is hot and burns your feet, you don’t have much time to think, you just have to move fast.
What’s crucial to know prior to scaling?
Methods that allow managers to lead small teams quite successfully often fail when the firm begins to expand rapidly. This is a common problem for fitness start-ups, especially those that are in the super-growth stage, that is, they strive to grow by more than 50% in six months to a year. Without a carefully thought-out scaling plan, a team that recruits new members finds itself invariably underperforming in training or any other task.
The pressures of rapid growth often limit the productivity gains expected from hiring more staff; the side effects of growth can even lower the overall effectiveness of the team.
Both fast-growing start-ups with 10 to 250 employees and small teams of fitness workers rapidly growing within large organizations can experience drops in productivity and communication difficulties. Typical problems for companies in the super-growth stage are:
- employee dissatisfaction,
- declining enthusiasm,
- product quality issues,
- customer dissatisfaction.
When a company is growing rapidly, it can be difficult to find the time to explain to newcomers the value and culture of an organization.
Traditionally, the tasks associated with expanding a business are solved by hiring new employees. But increasing the number of staff often only exacerbates the problems.
Many gym leaders mistakenly believe that the best way out is to hire more trainers who can contribute individually. Therefore, to support business growth processes or expand the product line, they attract new specialists to the company. However, the sudden inclusion of new employees in the team often only complicates the situation, because everyone needs to be prepared for work in a new team.
Managing a team that grows 100% annually is twice as difficult as a team that grows 50%.
Fitness startups need to improve their process methods. When faced with the danger of growing too fast, cancel all unimportant projects and implement the necessary organizational improvements we talk about below.
How to scale a team in fitness step-by-step
1. Hiring employees
To scale efficiently and in line with your needs, your company needs a scalable hiring process that meets a few key principles:
- Hire talented people who can fit into the team, avoid bias (racial, gender, age, and so on), and treat all candidates with attention.
- Never try to take the easy route when recruiting.
- And remember that each subsequent interview after the first four does not have a noticeable effect on the correctness of the decision.
Of course, you should pay attention if the coach you are hiring knows how to lose weight, keeps track of the wellness industry trends, and has a set of required soft skills. Nevertheless, when looking for suitable candidates, do not neglect any references, online resources, or applications sent to the company. Carefully consider the procedures for interviewing, checking references, and job offers.
The formal offer should be made by someone who guides candidates through the entire recruitment process.
Make sure that candidates understand what the company expects from them and that they share the values of its corporate culture. Clarify their expectations. Carefully explain to them all financial conditions, including the conditions for receiving shares and bonuses.
When your new employee arrives, support them and provide them with all the information they need to adapt quickly.
If problematic personality types are identified, be prepared to fire these employees; it’s inevitable if they don’t want to change. Get rid of those who do not contribute to team success or prevent colleagues from moving forward.
2. Fitness team management
In a period of rapid growth, management must set a number of specific objectives. Carefully select specialists for each team. Keep them motivated by giving them interesting assignments and providing learning and career opportunities. Keep teams focused on priority projects. Provide them with the resources they need to perform their tasks well.
Many startups extol the virtues of their ‘flat structure’. And this is often explained by the fact that they either do not understand the value of good managers, or they are afraid of the sad consequences of hiring bad managers, or they believe that it is impossible to distinguish one from the other.
In training group leaders, one of the most effective tools is personal mentoring. Each lower-level manager should have their own mentor, whose task is to develop the managerial skills of the ward.
Appoint a person responsible for monitoring the quality of management in the company. They should be responsible for appointing mentors for all managers and providing them with everything they need to work effectively.
Mentors should ask themselves all the time: “What are we doing to improve the management of the team?”
The gym staff consists of self-sufficient working groups that can take on all stages of the client’s training process.
Choose the team composition option that best suits you from four main ones:
- different team members have experience with different fitness directions;
- all team members have the same experience;
- all participants are focused on a specific business goal;
- all participants are focused on a certain category of customers.
Help each team prioritize work.
3. Subordination structure
It is necessary that there is complete clarity about how and to whom each participant in the workflow reports. In sports organizations, the reporting structure can be of four types:
- One manager per project team. All trainers of the team report to their lead, and other team members (administrators, gym managers) report to their team leaders.
- One leader per full-cycle team. Each such team operates as a separate small firm.
- One leader for each specialization. Employees and their managers have the same specialized knowledge. The matrix structure of the firm ensures effective communication between specialized teams.
- One common leader for all teams. Trainers from all teams report to one leader. Moving from one team to another, people do not change their boss. The manager does not have related knowledge, but can provide support for the project within the company and contribute to the career growth of employees.
Regardless of size, a team must have a strong culture and clear values. Think of your core values as the roots of a tree, and your culture as branches and leaves. New hires should embrace and maintain your culture.
For instance, develop a rule about what smartwatches for fitness your staff should wear.
Culture manifests itself in processes and procedures, behavior patterns, rituals, gatherings and holidays, as well as reward programs. Differences in employee value systems inevitably give rise to difficulties. To avoid conflicts, make sure employees know and understand your culture.
When startups are just starting to work, their size is small, and all employees personally know each other and trust each other. Everything changes when the company expands and recruits additional staff. When new employees appear in different teams, and over time even in different offices of the firm, leaders should focus on “scaling communications”.
Often employees of fast-growing firms complain: “I no longer understand what is happening here”; “I spend all my time in meetings.” Make sure your meetings are efficient.
For communication to be effective:
- Determine who needs to know what. Each group of specialists – trainers, gym managers, sales managers and so on – should receive the information they need.
- Choose a communication channel. This could be Slack, dashboards, email, and other channels.
- Implement your strategy. Provide information to employees on a regular basis. Make sure that online content is always up-to-date.
5 key principles on how to scale a team
Avoid “loss of scale”: this happens when you can’t do more work with more people, and as a result, profit per employee decreases. To keep your workers motivated to perform at their best, follow the five basic principles.
- Form fitness teams. Minimize their mutual dependence, and establish effective communication.
- Provide autonomy. Trainers perform best when managers are not trying to control their every action. Let the teams themselves control what happens to their wards, cope with difficulties, set specific goals and achieve them.
- Work with meaning. All employees and work teams must believe in the purpose for which the company exists and share its vision for the future. Everyone must understand how exactly their specific actions contribute to the implementation of the overall plan and the achievement of common goals.
- Ensure commitments are met. According to the Agile Manifesto, written in 2001 by 17 software developers, “Our highest priority is to satisfy customer needs through the timely and continuous delivery of valuable software.”
- Create opportunities for continuous learning. Gym staff needs to take a break from current work and analyze the results of completed projects to find ways to increase team productivity. As new people join the ranks, break discussion participants into smaller groups so that such meetings last no more than an hour.
When employees become managers
In the process of growth, some trainers have to take on management responsibilities. But most of them are fitness specialists with no management skills. For example, your chosen personal coach can have a great skill-set. Yet you should help them learn how to manage people. Train employees who have the following strengths as leaders:
- Mentor abilities. Look for those who help colleagues acquire new knowledge and improve their professionalism.
- Communication skills. Managers must be able to explain complex concepts in an understandable way, both orally and in writing.
- Empathy. To lead people, it is necessary to be attentive and delicate.
- Natural craving for leadership. Some employees become informal leaders naturally. Pay attention to those who are respected and listened to by colleagues.
- Modesty. Such people recognize the achievements of others, do not brag about their successes, and do not try to control other team members.
- Strategic thinking. Good leaders always think about the future.
Encourage constructive criticism and educate team members on how to properly express it.
There are a number of shortcomings that need to be taken into account. Avoid those who do not know how to cope with stress and work in difficult environments. As well as those who do not like to share information and provoke conflicts (although even the most convinced peacemaker must be able to defend their ideas).
Scale your team with a plan
A super-growth team needs a scaling plan. The plan should be directed at solving the problems associated with the rapid increase in the number of people, and not with the life cycle of the company’s products. To develop such a plan, careful analysis is needed no less than to write a gym development plan.
The scaling plan should include the aspects mentioned above:
- Hiring employees. The founders of your company naturally care about who will work in it, so they should help make hiring decisions. After each interview, hold meetings so that everyone who has interviewed the candidates can discuss their impressions. Develop programs for onboarding newcomers and removing employees from the state.
- Personnel management. Each worker should report to a specific manager. This could be the CEO, CTO, or team leader. When the number of trainers reaches fifteen, move the organization to a formal management structure and remember that young leaders need mentors. You can partner with consultants and coaches to scale a team.
- Organization. In addition to adhering to the five principles of organizational structure, make sure that all employees understand how what they do helps the company achieve its goals.
- Culture. Your firm’s founding team should discuss and articulate its core values. Communicate these values to all employees.
- Communication. Hold briefings, general staff meetings, internal corporate presentations, and informal meetings to keep everyone in the loop.
Andrew Crow, former VP of Design at Uber, has seen insane growth during his tenure. Once they mastered their workflow, more people were added to the team, requiring a retooling of both the organizational structure and processes. He likened it to bringing water to a boil, only to add more water and put it down again.
To scale a team or not to scale?
Hope now you are 100% ready to face the issue of how to scale your team in real life.
At the same time, when scaling a team, it is important to understand that turbulence, super-high development speed, and multitasking are the basic conditions for business development, for which both the team and people must be prepared. Scaling for a fitness company is all about the ability and willingness to realign and focus on what matters most without losing momentum.
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