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Growing beyond the founder

Avoid the common pitfalls of growing your business and your team by asking yourself these eight questions.

By ATB Financial 31 August 2021 5 min read

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So your business is growing and you’re looking to expand your team. First of all, congrats! That’s a huge achievement, and we’re cheering you on every step of the way. Before you start looking into new talent, we’ve got eight questions to ask yourself so you can avoid the common pitfalls of growing your business and your team. We actually hosted an entire webinar about it, so if you’re a more of a visual learner, tune into the recorded session.

If this sounds overwhelming, we get it — considering all of these questions at once can be a lot to take in. Our advice? Take it one step at a time. You can come back to this list with each new hire and ask yourself how you can implement one more strategy.

1. How am I growing my team’s skills?

Way back when you started your business, you likely hired a team of generalists. To grow your company to the next level, you may need more specific skill sets. Ask yourself how you can re-skill your people and create professional development opportunities so they can move into other roles.

2. Can my team confidently share our values, story and culture?

As your team grows, it’s important to keep your business culture consistent. How? Develop shared values that are created with your team’s input.

Kate McKenzie, co-founder of The Secret 3K and Manager of ATB X, recommends that when you’re hiring, weave your values in your job postings and interviews. That way, you’re screening for candidates who have bought into what you’re about even before they join your team.

She also recommends developing a consistent on-boarding process that allows team members to practice sharing the company story and purpose. Give this a try: on a weekly basis, have a team member share a company value during staff meetings to keep your shared values top of mind.


3. Does my team have a shared goal setting approach?

As your business grows, it’s important to develop a shared goal setting approach as a team and make sure that it’s consistent for each team member. For example, consider using the OKR method of setting objectives and key results for your team as a whole and for each individual. This way, your team can pursue company-wide goals in a unified method, and there’s a standardized approach to measure individual goals.


4. Are our systems strong enough that anyone can take a vacation for two weeks?

The last thing you want is for your business to feel the strain if you (or someone on your team) takes a well-deserved vacation. Our recommendation? Develop transparent, shared systems so that anyone on your team, including you, can take a vacation and it’s clear how the rest of the team could cover. 

When systems are well-built, they allow you as a founder to plan for the success of the company — that includes the important, future oriented stuff like selling or succession planning. Plan on taking a vacation each year so that you can evaluate and document what systems aren’t working yet and which ones are. Plus, as a founder, you probably deserve at least one vacation every year — you’ve been hustling!


5. How will I communicate with my team?

As you grow your team, think about the expectations you have for communication. Will your company use daily stand-up meetings? Weekly staff meetings? Slack channels?

Paries Johnson, co-founder of JPF Commercial Flooring and ATB X alumni, shared her story of using Trello — a project management software — as a way for her team to communicate what had been completed on a project and to document in a transparent way. This method allowed for high quality completion every time.

6. Are there other solutions besides hiring?

When your workload outgrows your current team, you’ve got options. Before you jump to hire someone, ask yourself if you could outsource until you need someone on a full salary. If you end up outsourcing, weave your company values and culture into your contracts so you end up working with someone who reflects your brand ethos. Whenever possible, wait to hire until it’s uncomfortable. In other words, hire slow and fire fast. 

Jolanda Slagmolen-Flores, co-founder of Casa Flores Cabinetry and ATB X alumni, shared her story of choosing to buy a CNC machine (manufacturing machinery run by pre-programmed computer software) instead of bringing on more employees, since this equipment would allow her entire business to be more efficient. 

Slamolen-Flores also shared that by introducing the equipment slowly, it allowed their company time to train their employees on how to use it. A slow integration also allowed her business to fully use the training provided by the software company associated with the equipment.

Both Johnson and McKenzie have used contractors instead of full employees. Johnson said that starting new talent as contractors gave both the company and the individual a chance to see if it was a good fit before bringing them on as full-time employees. 

McKenzie and Slagmolen-Flores shared that it’s important to have a roster of contractors to provide a depth of support for your company and allow for contingency plans if your go-to contractor isn’t available.

7. Have I made a financial plan for hiring?

Erika Topola, ATB Entrepreneur Strategist, recommends setting aside money in advance when you’re planning to bring on a new employee. 

It’s always a good idea to see if you’re using your business bank account to its full potential. She recommends that you ask yourself a few questions: are we on the right plan for how many transactions the company makes? Have we considered opening multiple savings accounts or looked into our options with ATB FX? 

She suggests that entrepreneurs book a free meeting with an ATB Business Strategist to go over their cash flow, find ways to tighten it up and even apply for an operational line of credit to provide a contingency while your company adjusts to having more employees. You have options, and an expert can help you discover what’s right for you and your business.


8. How can I be more efficient with payroll?

Topola also recommends looking into Ceridian as a payroll solution. Plus, as an ATB client you’ll get 10% off! By paying $27/month you can save time as a founder knowing everything for your employees, including T4s, GST, salaried and non-salaried positions, is taken care of.


If you’re growing your business by bringing on new employees, expanding geographically or exploring new product or service offerings, why not apply to our next cohort of ATB X? You don’t have to grow your business alone. 

Our free two month accelerator program connects you with other entrepreneurs and business experts, so you can be part of a community as your business grows. We dive into topics like culture, marketing, sales, cash flow, finance, operations and entrepreneur wellness. Best of all, it’s customized for each business that’s accepted, and delivered by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. 


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