One of the best insights I’ve learned to describe launching and scaling a business is from Molly Graham, the COO of Quip when she asks startups: Who do you want to be when you grow up?
Growing up is a tangible description of building a startup as it covers your birth, the early years when you can only answer questions like “How old are you?” and “What do you like to do?” as well as the awkward teen phases when you’re experimenting with who you are.
The things no one warns us about are the emotional and mental challenges we face along the way. The same goes for founders. It’s one thing to articulate the difference you hope to make in the world. It’s another to build and inspire a team to believe in the same future that you do.
No one warns you about the inspirational component. It’s not just learning how to manage. You have to be an inspirational figure.
WayUp, formerly CampusJob, was seven team members when we spoke in April. The team worked in a small co-working space until the late hours of the night making communication simple.
Today, 30 team members – including individuals hired for senior positions – make up the WayUp team. For Liz and JJ, communication, leadership, and motivation are a new and exciting challenge.
Two of the fastest learners I know, they are first to admit when they need advice tackling a new problem.
When it comes to hiring senior executives, for example, Liz and JJ seek advice from advisors, investors, and mentors to fill in their skill gaps.
Mentors play an active role in the sourcing and interviewing processes. They’re also a final stamp of approval on hiring decisions.
It’s important to remember that not all mentors have to be formal.
The WayUp team’s goal is to interact with and hire individuals who possess stronger skill sets than they do.
Hire people who are better than you and who you can learn from.
JJ practices this by asking each candidate he interviews how they would shape his or her potential role and the questions they’d ask if they were conducting the interview.
Whether or not you hire an individual, the experience and learnings are invaluable.
The next part of navigating your company’s growth is learning to delegate and detach.
The first thing you have to learn is how and what to delegate.
The only way to scale is to empower your team members to take ownership of their roles and to avoid interfering unless necessary.
JJ aptly describes this as not defaulting to ‘hero mode.’
This certainly doesn’t imply potentially letting your business implode. It simply means that you shouldn’t “swoop in” every time you know the answer.
Despite being challenging to watch, the only way for your team members to grow in their roles is to learn and make mistakes on their own.
When Liz suggested a team member pursue a new role she made it clear that she would fail “many, many times, which is okay. It’s what you do with the failure that matters.”
You aren’t expecting them to be perfect. It’s how they handle their mistakes and errors that will matter in the long term.
Autonomy and experimentation can only be successful if it’s crystal clear that your team can rely on you for guidance.
When helping her team member navigate a new role, Liz started by having her send a list of all of her questions and answered them to the best of her ability.
Next, Liz suggested she attend events and workshops to develop her skill set and meet with individuals working in the same position to learn and grow from their insights.
Learning is the foundation of WayUp. Whether it’s the product team’s code checks or the sales team’s recap decks, every experience is closely reviewed to maximize future impact.
In less than 18 months, WayUp has become the top career platform for college students with one in three students getting a job on the platform.
Stay tuned as they redefine how we challenge, engage, and inspire the business builders of the future.