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Bursts of Color - Org Design 101
Every startup builds the team and organization that fits its unique requirements. But that does *not* mean we have to re-imagine every role, job spec and our overall org chart. In fact, thousands of successful companies have gone before us on this, so there is plenty of well-worn track to follow when building an organization.
By the time they grow to 100 people, many SaaS organizations look something like this:
From a headcount perspective, most employees in these companies tend to work in the “Product” and “Go To Market” buckets on the left side, whereas the “Staff Functions” on the right tend to be relatively small - often just one functional expert each when the company is 100 people.
Marketplaces are a little different, but the org charts still tend to be directionally similar, like this:
And of course other kinds of companies - like hardware, health care or services - will have other specific departments. Still, even in those cases, the companies will tend to have these same primary functions.
For companies that are well under 100 people and still just getting started on team building, here are a few suggested rules of thumb:
Unless your business demands really require that you go off-script, try to hire into these well-understood functions, and stick with typical roles like Software Engineer, Account Executive and Customer Support Representative.
Minimize executive titles like VP and CXO until you’re bigger, or unless you are really hiring someone who has that legit executive profile. Making your inexperienced friend the CMO sends a poor signal, and you’re going to have to undo it later anyhow. In the meantime, the leader of each department can simply be called “Head of ___.” More on this in Are Job Titles Important?
Minimize levels within the organization by insisting that all managers have at least 5-6 direct reports. One of the insidious things that can develop early in a start-up is the I-Formation, in which you have a bunch of tiny teams of 1-2 people, none of which are well managed or tracked.
Once your company has a few of these different functions - and typically when overall headcount is over about 20 - create and host a Weekly Leadership Meeting where you bring the various team leads together at the same time and place. You’ll need to prune and manage this group over time, as you typically only need one person per function and don’t want an unwieldy group size.