Scaling is a matter of trust

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There are numerous articles every week on how to scale and grow a company. Startup metrics, growth hacking, technology choices. While they are all important, there are many other traits that also affect the growth rate of a company. I would argue that trust is one of the most important ones. It is a recurring theme in both my own projects and others that I look at.

First there is gaining, growing and keeping the trust of your customers. Here are three examples of not doing that very well (even if two of the companies admittedly are doing well anyway).

These are all relatively well known examples, but still trust is rarely referenced in this context.

Even more rare, is talking about the trust within a company that needs to occur in order for companies to grow. A key component of growth and scaling is being productive — doing the right thing, at the right time, in the right way. In order to make this happen, it is helpful to look at the company as a series of groups and then see how efficiently and focused these groups perform.

I’ve had some brief training using Susan Wheeler’s model for group development, and using that as a framework it is clear that moving the group from Stage 1 (Dependency and Inclusion) to Stage 2 (Counterdependency and Fight) is a matter of maturity and comfort in having different opinions, and to not always follow the leader. The conflicts that occur are also the foundation for moving to Stage 3 (Trust / Structure). If you can get past the conflicts, the group will start trusting each other to a much higher degree. And there is research to support that groups that reach Stage 3 (or higher) are more productive than others. Trust is therefore paramount when it comes to creating a productive company that can scale.

Startups are in many ways not that different from any other company or organization, even if the people running them like to think so. I know there are a lot of specific circumstances and prerequisites that don’t apply to bigger companies, but these are widely covered every day in Silicon Valley press. The simpler, more human, traits that are the same however — they are sometimes forgotten.

(this post was originally posted on Svbtle. I’m evaluating my publishing options.)

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