Scaling your Team for high performance with Thomas Joos

It is time we talk about scaling your team and all the problems that come along with them. Especially when you are in a high growth environment you will need to adapt a very fast learning curve.
Thomas Joos, the co-founder of Hypernova, joins the Chaos Show and shares his experience on
– setting expectations
– guiding and coaching
– internal communication
– sharing the vision
– building playbooks and employee handbooks
– the rhythm of working together
links mentioned in this episode:

Listen to the Chaos Show podcast or read the full transcript below.

Building high performance teams with Thomas Joos, co-founder Hypernova

Michael Humblet:         Over the last 60 episodes of this show, we talked about sales, we talked about scaling marketing, but the thing we’ve never talked about is when things go well, how do you scale the team, who do you hire? So I’ve invited Thomas from a company called Hypernova, and that’s actually what they do. So let’s jump straight in. What’s the major problem when I’m scaling?

Thomas Joos:                The main issue I see almost everywhere is that when you’re dealing with lots of people on, uh, joining a team on a short amount of time, you need to change the way you communicate with them and, and setting the right expectations, uh, going into dialogue, uh, evaluating them, guiding them. That’s a huge learning curve for founders, uh, to tackle.

Michael Humblet:         I see it with so many founders. They’re really good at something and then they hire some people and then things really start going … Because they’re running around. They’re running, they’re running, so much to do and … but still, they have to communicate. So what, what would be your advice?

Thomas Joos:                To double-check if you’re capable of formulating what you expect clearly. So, uh, most of the people I work with, they have a vision, and it’s here, in their head.

Michael Humblet:         Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Thomas Joos:                And they think everybody understands the vision, but when you start working with lots of different kind of people, it actually is a very big, uh, learning curve to transfer that vision, uh, to all those people, uh, and making sure they see themselves playing a role in that bigger picture.

Michael Humblet:         Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Thomas Joos:                Um, it, it really strikes me that every company where I, where I walk into the room, they, they all have this crazy amount of expertise, it’s all here.

Michael Humblet:         Yeah. True.

Thomas Joos:                And, and documentation doesn’t exist. There are no handbooks or playbooks. And, and the way you learn how to work or behave in the company is simply by talking to people and, and that’s a very labour-intensive, uh, thing to do.

Michael Humblet:         Yeah. And, and as of what moment should you start doing it?

Thomas Joos:                I’ve learned from experience that once you- you’re building a team from 10 to 20 people it’s al- it’s already becoming a lot of work to communicate just, uh, verbally. So I would advise starting, uh, writing down, uh, best practices, things you expect, from the minute you’re, you’re approaching the 10, uh-

Michael Humblet:         You’d write it down. So if I look into tools, what would you recommend?

Thomas Joos:                Well, there- there’s lots of stuff that you can use. People usually start with Google Docs. But it’s, it’s actually not the best tool, because once you are starting, uh, to write multiple articles it’s really difficult to navigate, uh, between them. Uh, we use a tool, it’s called Notion. It’s a, a sort of online Wiki. Uh, very user-friendly, and it has a nice way of navigating through the content.

Michael Humblet:         I’ve seen it in several scale-ups, actually.

Thomas Joos:                Yeah, so I think that’s, that’s one, one big, uh, big tip, uh, for the people that are watching. Uh, check it out, Notion. It’s a very user-friendly way of documenting the most important information.

Michael Humblet:         And you would basically document [inaudible] and look for it, search for it.

Thomas Joos:                Yeah. So what we always advise is what, what are the, the, the five, six, seven things people really need to know at the first day they start working for your company? Um, and, and it’s from practical stuff like where do you need to be, uh, policies, uh, regarding, uh-

Michael Humblet:         Vision mission, that kind of stuff?

Thomas Joos:                … Oh, also that kind of stuff, of course, but I assume if people start working at the company, they’ve already processed the mission and the vision. So I, I would really advise to go as practical as possible, because the moment people walk in through the door to help you move your company forward, they wanna do stuff.

Thomas Joos:                And so the handbook is actually a guide to, to get them up and running as soon as possible.

Michael Humblet:         Get stuff done

Thomas Joos:                .You could, uh, compare it with customer success or, or a frequently asked questions, uh, initiative-

Thomas Joos:                to your customers. I see lots of founders answering the same questions over and over and over again, uh, while they can just document it in a handbook and, and, and-

Thomas Joos:       up a lot of time.

Michael Humblet:         So, handbook, pure towards communication strategy. How would you tackle this?

Thomas Joos:                I think that’s a very good question and it, it brings me to this concept I call rhythm, in which rhythm do you work together? And I see lots of companies, uh, just trying to do their best, uh, and, and the result is that everybody needs to perform at their best level every day-

Thomas Joos:                … but it doesn’t work like that.

Thomas Joos:                You have, of course, your peak performers and there you need time to slow down and reflect, as well. But there’s a big difference between founders and employees. Founders are very, very motivated, very, very driven by their long-term vision. So, so it’s an … different energy. But when employees join your, your group, I think it’s important to, to take a step back every few weeks, like every six or 12 weeks, and just reflect on, “What have we learned?” I think today we all live in a world that is changing very fast, uh, so even the fast-moving startups and, and scaleups need to develop a rhythm that keeps the pace of learning and improving, uh, happening. When companies are growing from 20 to 50 people, the rhythm starts to slow down. More and more people join a team, there’s lot of operational issues, stuff that needs to be done. Um, and they, they, they get trapped in this operational, uh, storm, uh-

Thomas Joos:                … just making sure everything is done by the end of the day. Uh, and they stop reflecting and learning. And I think that’s a, a major key thing to avoid.

Michael Humblet:         So, one of the things that, that, I mean, I struggle with and I’ve seen (laughs) most, most founders also struggle with, is that it’s so busy, so how do you make room to listen? And should you listen? And, and, and how much should you listen? Because sometimes, you’re just listening and thinking they’re just spilling their guts over to you and it’s not being productive.

Thomas Joos:                The challenge for most, uh, f- founders in, in that kind of situation is that they, they think they know it all.

Thomas Joos:                Um, now let me give you a, a simple example. Uh, in my previous company, I’ve hired 50, 50 designers and I all gave them the same exercise. This is a software interface that you need to redesign. Just do something and let’s talk about your work. And it was actually a project we did. And I thought we’ve considered all options. Every designer did something different and every time I was inspired. So never think you know it all.

Michael Humblet:         If you have to give one final advice, or advice, what, what would it be?

Thomas Joos:                Yeah. I think the most important thing if you want to scale your teams is to look for people that really want to be in the team. I think you should deal with your employees the same way as you deal with your customers. Sell them a spot in your team every single day and whatever you do, never, ever allow someone to stay on board that doesn’t really want to be there.

Michael Humblet:         Thanks for coming to the show

Thomas Joos:                Thank you very much for having me.