What are the strategies to establish my startup's organizational structure?

I'm working on setting up the organizational foundation of my startup (defining my startup's structure and who's in charge of what), but I'm lost because I'm not a management expert. What are the strategies/tools I should use to establish my company's structure?


Hi, so I've been part of multiple startups, successful and "failed". The pattern with most is that the originators of an idea tend to be the ones wanting to be the CEO... If the originator is a team, together you guys need to honestly answer each other questions such as:
1) who handles pressure better?
2) who is COMFORTABLE speaking to random people
3) and able to articulate clever responses and craft a pitch that hits the right spots to a variety of people. (This people could be in some sort of leadership/marketing- the vast majority of a startups effort goes to marketing and development)
4) Who is the technical person available to solve technical (or coding) problems?
5) who can bullshit their way through situations?
6) which one has sales experience? Training? Or management?
7) who is willing to work and earn the equity over a period of 1 or 2 years to be fully vested? Whoever is not, prob aren't as committed and thus shouldn't be on leadership..
8) does the team really need everyone on board full time?
9) putting ego aside, would your mom see you as a leader of others? Can you make tough decisions when needed? Or do you get pushed over?

A startup is an experiment, just because you structure things a certain doesn't mean your stuck with it. It's a mantra for a product and definitely more for the management. sometimes the ideators are not even the best option or is the leader the best CEO.

Best of luck.

Answered 8 years ago

I've been involved with multiple startup teams, and advised quite a few as well. Some teams work great, others not so much, and dependent on the team members themselves, structure can either be a bane or a boon.

One of my secret weapons for helping startup teams get moving without excessive structure is what I call "active triage" > Start pushing the jobs to do, every one of them across the board, into a single centralized list, accessible to all team members (unless there is something super confidential only certain people can address).

The key to this method is twofold:

1) Everything goes in one place, though you could have one list for each key area

2) Everyone is encouraged to actively take ownership of the tasks, by putting their name next to an item, and when it is done, recording the time took and that it is complete.

It sounds simple, but it is very very effective as it increases visibility, accountability and shows very clearly who is actively participating in the company, and who isn't.

You could implement this in a Kanban board, or Asana, or any of the project tools that are out there - It's not the tools that matter, it's the process.

Although this may not immediately solve your startup structure issue, it will absolutely provide you with insights into what is actually getting done, and who is doing it. Both vitals insights to ensure you get the balance right when you do get your structure together.

I'd be happy to have a quick call with you if there is anything I can help with.

Answered 8 years ago

As an entrepreneur myself, I know how difficult this can be :( But there is hope! :)

Keep in mind:
An organisational structure is never a solid and completed piece of work. Moreover, it remains flexible and adjustable as you grow and add new team members.

To get started, I would suggested the following approach:

(1) Determine whats already in place
Take a closer look at which positions are currently set and which roles will be needed in the next 3/6 months.

(2) Define which kind of organisational structure you wish to have
Hierarchical structure: A tall structure will have many different levels of employees all reporting upwards to team leaders and then up to operational management.

Flat structure: Flat organisational structure has fewer layers of management and wider spans of control. This means operatives can access and communicate with managers more easily and quicker. As a startup, this is what you want to achieve.

(3) Fill the typical top 5 roles, for example: (Depends on the type of startup)

Sales Director
Marketing Director
Head of Engineering

I hope this will give a better overview of how to tackle this situation. Please let me know if you have any further follow up questions.

Here are some interesting links:

Answered 8 years ago

To develop an effective organizational structure for your start-up you need to follow the following rules:
1. Defining Roles Through Organizational Charts: No organization ever grows without leaders. This is, by a mile, the most important early decisions for a start-up. The best way to accomplish this is to use an organizational chart to plan visually and represent your management structure. It is also ideal to work with interactive organizational chart software to quickly adjust whenever necessary. A web-based tool such as Creately can help you architect your organizational structure on the fly. You do not need to register for an account or download the app. Instead, you can start editing immediately and take advantage of its styling features to quickly identify positions. You can use some different shapes and visual elements to develop the organization's hierarchy. This includes arrows, people shape, balloons, and lines. You could also import your images for a more personalized chart. Just remember that you need to sign up if you want to save your chart, but you are still free to access all the tool's features. Once you have your organizational structure chart, you now have the bare bones of a reliable company that is built to stand the test of time. The next step is to focus on the more technical details starting with your business procedures.
2. Document Operating Procedures: A growing business must establish systemised processes to help employees become more productive with their time. Without this, it will be difficult to identify critical tasks and monitor their completion, especially for a growing company with growing objectives. It also helps establish uniformity and a standard when it comes to output quality. A start-up can manually develop the documentation themselves. However, you need a more scalable solution that covers your business for the long-term. You can take advantage of a documentation tool such as Sweet Process, which can help you document repetitive tasks, establish a set procedure, and share them within your organization. Systemizing operating procedures are also crucial for companies with an expanding workforce. Through procedure documentation, you can significantly reduce the time it takes to train new employees since the processes are already well-documented and refined. Now that you have an organisational chart and systemised operating procedures, it is time to establish the teams responsible for the essential business processes.
3. Distribute Work, Delegate Tasks: A start-up often struggles when it comes to monitoring every single member, especially with growing teams. A well-documented procedure is meaningless if you cannot identify the most qualified people to get things going. Therefore, you should establish a system for managing your teams, delegating individual tasks, and monitoring the progress of every member. However, it is not always easy to manage a team, especially if there are remote workers involved. This is now a common problem since outsourcing freelancers are slowly becoming the norm for digital start-ups. To overcome this issue, you can leverage a comprehensive project management platform such as Wrike to distribute work and delegate tasks more efficiently. This is extremely helpful if you are managing in-house employees, remote workers, or both. A project management platform functions as a paperless workspace for a company. It facilitates collaboration, idea sharing, document sharing, and task delegation across teams. A platform like Wrike also helps maintain the productivity of your workforce with traditional management tools such as timelines and Gantt charts. This is the catalyst that integrates productivity to your organisational structure.
4. Embrace Growth: After finally gaining traction and seeing progress, the final challenge startups must overcome to keep up with the momentum and set bigger goals. As a business, you should never settle for anything less than the great success you envisioned when you founded your startup.

First, make sure that you regularly review your company's performance to spot areas that need improvement or optimization. You should also explore new ways and consider new tools that will help you grow your enterprise. Today, you can instantly search for growth tools that can improve different areas of your start-up, particularly for online marketing. Online businesses today leverage platforms that can keep them ahead of the competition. This includes automation software, email marketing tools, analytics, and social media. In today’s competitive world, you need to be adaptive and open-minded to all the opportunities that can help your company grow. However, you must also do this intelligently and focus on one area at a time. Do not go overboard and remember to be ROI-oriented with your funds.
Besides if you do have any questions give me a call:

Answered 3 years ago

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