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How to Finish Big Work with a Small Team

September 29, 2022

At Recruiting from Scratch, we work with startups who need to get a lot done - and get it done with a small headcount. Working small and having a nimble team can be a great advantage in producing quality work...once you set yourselves up for success.

Below are some key principles to keep in mind. As a young company ourselves (we started Recruiting from Scratch in 2019), these tactics have helped us accomplish a lot for our clients and candidates - and have saved a lot of time.

1. Be specific about everyone’s responsibilities. At first, this may seem counterintuitive - in a small team, shouldn’t everyone help out as much as they can, in all sorts of different job functions? While this is sometimes true (situations arise where it’s necessary to call an all-hands), employees that have too many overlapping responsibilities can neglect the key functions of their role. For example - let’s say you’ve hired a Product Manager, but they’re spending a lot of time providing feedback on engineering projects, marketing, and investor relations. If they can accomplish all of this, and still be an excellent Product Manager - great! But if it pulls attention from developing the product roadmap, the company is no longer on track to meet its larger goals.

2. Eliminate unnecessary processes. Is there a task that can be automated? For example, at Recruiting from Scratch, we use automations from Slack to let our team know all sorts of things - like when we’ve received a submission on our website, or when a calendar event is scheduled. Having dedicated Slack channels where our team can review updates has been instrumental in helping us eliminate unnecessary processes. In doing so, we save time - and our team can move on to other opportunities that drive our business forward.

3. Prioritize your greatest opportunities during short meetings. Instead of having lengthy status meetings, try to condense your conversations into more frequent, shorter calls. At Recruiting from Scratch, we host brief standup meetings multiple times a week so our team can review what we’re working on and make quick decisions about where not to focus our attention. Meetings help our team feel invested in the work we’re doing and keep us on track. You may be surprised at what you can accomplish with just 20 or 30 minutes of focused time!

4. Provide quick, realtime feedback and then move on. Providing quick, actionable feedback and then pushing forward to the next topic keeps projects moving successfully. Waiting weeks to deliver feedback (or even longer - like during an annual performance review) - can make it more difficult for your team to reach its goals. In No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention, Meyer and Hastings detail how this process works at top tech company. The Netflix team provides quick and actionable feedback in realtime - and it’s considered a disservice not to provide honest critiques. With a small team, providing realtime feedback is essential. Just remember to deliver feedback as kindly and specifically as possible, with positive intent.

5. Get to know each other as people, not just coworkers. In the world of remote work, where teams can sometimes go months (or even years!) without meeting in person, building personal relationships is critical. At RFS for example, we try to make time every week to play remote games together, share what music we’re listening to, what we’re reading, and of course - travel and vacation plans. While boundaries and keeping to a professional environment is important here, we find we work better when we understand our team’s likes and dislikes, their hobbies and interests, their goals and aspirations. Try to take some time each week to have a fun call or short event with your team. If not everyone is able to attend, that’s okay - it’s fine to make these optional.

What are some our your favorite tips for small teams? How do you make sure that your small team reaches their goals?

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