Starting a business usually ends up being twice as hard as you thought it would be, but scaling a business is even harder. When you have a hot product and a fast-growing team, you can expect to have your work cut out for you while managing all the different moving parts. From research and planning to developing strategic partnerships, it takes much more than ambition to expand a business successfully.
Emily Hurd is no stranger to the challenges involved in growing a business. As an entrepreneur herself, she built an ecommerce bakery from scratch with her own savings and led the efforts for growth in the face of increasing demand. She later sold the company and moved onto other business ventures. One such venture was Rocketrip, a NYC startup that aims to cut a company’s travel costs through motivating employees to spend less on business travel. By tapping into the psychology of what makes employees tick, their platform helps employers incentivise saving and helps employees earn rewards.
After three years scaling one of the Best Entrepreneurial Companies in America, Hurd is now an independent consultant and advisor who entrepreneurs looking to scale their business can certainly learn from. Here is how she did it.
“Build a team of smart, dedicated people that are committed to improving and growing, and empower them to drive change.” – @emilydhurd Click to Tweet
What was your role at Rocketrip and what did it entail?
I was SVP Operations at Rocketrip. During my tenure, I oversaw People and Office Operations, Marketing, Business Intelligence, Customer Support, Customer Success, and Business Development.
How did your perception of growth change from when you ran your own small business to your SVP position in a venture-backed company?
Moving from my own self-funded, small business to venture-backed startups made me much more deliberate about growth. When I ran my own business, I was very scrappy in how I thought about growth. The efforts I implemented were generally free or low-cost. I was risk-averse in terms of not wanting to see any efforts fail, since cash was so tight.
"Moving to venture-backed startups, I’ve learned to embrace some degree of risk-taking and being willing to try lots of things knowing some will fail. Scrappiness and cost-sensitivity are still critical, but you have to invest your resources and place bets in order to see what drives ROI."
What has been the most important lesson learned (regarding growth) throughout your career?
Learning the importance of surrounding myself with exceptional people, and empowering them to take ownership of their domains, was a big one. I used to try to do as much as I could myself, but now I understand that delegation and setting others up for success are critical for growth.
Which activities do you consider invaluable when scaling a business?
In many cases, it can be useful to start in a scrappy, low-tech, unscalable way at first, to understand exactly what’s happening, whether it’s about how customers are interacting with your product, or what your systems need to do on the backend. People can be quick to try to implement technology or hire people that they think they need in order to solve a problem, but it’s critical to understand the problem fully before trying to find a solution.
Some entrepreneurs try to scale prematurely. What are the main signs that a business is ready to scale?
Knowing you have product-market fit is a big one. Scaling prematurely can disguise fundamental problems and distract from what’s most important at the core of your business.
You can end up spending your time focused on:
- Are the people I’ve put in place the right ones?
- Do team members have the resources they need in order to be successful?
Instead of understanding things like:
- Is my business working?
- Is it founded on sound principles that are proving to be true?
- Is it solving real problems and gaining real traction?
Let’s talk about teams. How did you go about scaling a workforce globally?
We required 24-hour support, which led us to expand globally. It was important to us to have our international team feel like they were part of our company, and we invested time and resources in doing in-person training, sharing traditions across offices, and celebrating wins globally.
Were there any memorable hiccups while scaling a global workforce and how did you move past them?
With our first attempt to scale globally, we didn’t make the same efforts I mentioned above. We outsourced to a provider that we didn’t get to know very well, and our team saw a lot of turnover. This meant there were lots of mistakes and mistrust on both sides.
Before too long, we decided to make a fresh start where we knew we’d have more involvement in hiring, training, and retaining our talent.
Bolton Remote have teamed up with Emily Hurd and Rocketrip to provide an ongoing talent solution that works. We offer fast, affordable and scalable access to remote teams, with the transparency and reliability you can trust.
“Bolton exceeds expectations in recruitment, training, and team management. Their teams are proud to work for them, making a huge difference in retention and morale.” – Emily Hurd
Any tips for entrepreneurs when it comes to scaling a global, remote workforce?
Learn from people who have done it before! You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, so identify resources and partners that can help you scale strategically and that want to share in your success.
With scaling comes the challenge of retaining long term workers. Rocketrip was named one of Crain’s Best Places to Work two years running; what role did you play in building such a positive team environment?
Leadership sets the tone for any business, and Rocketrip has a fantastic executive team that lives the company’s values every day. We also actively solicited input from our employees through surveys, task forces, and all-hands meetings. Employees are core to the business, and Rocketrip makes sure everyone knows that and feels valued and heard.
What advice/golden rule would you give venture capital backed firms hoping to scale in the near future?
Measure and tweak as you go. Scaling is an iterative process, and it’s okay not to get it all right on the first go. Build a team of smart, dedicated people that are committed to improving and growing, and empower them to drive change.
Over to you
Are you preparing to scale your startup? Taking the next steps can be both daunting and rewarding. We can help you scale easier with hand picked remote, global talent. Discover the Bolton Remote difference and see why so many businesses choose to partner with us.