7 growth tips for startups by Jenny Bloom‍

Every founder strives to lead their team to success. Not all teams know the path to get there. Jenny Bloom, CFO of Zapier, has cracked the code on how to scale a growing business and has outlined her top tips in this exclusive guide.

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Companies are never founded merely for the sake of it. Instead, founders put everything on the line to build something from nothing and watch their growing entity flourish. 

With that being said, building a full-fledged organization from the ground up is no simple feat. So how can you help a company thrive? Jenny Bloom, CFO of Zapier, sat down with our team at Abacum to discuss her top growth tips all teams should follow. 

1. Prep for success

When building a finance function from the ground up, you may be tempted to use the very first software you find, or worse, the cheapest option available. However, Jenny suggests taking a different approach when creating a tech stack. Choose your tech toolkit wisely, and ensure that all solutions are scalable. 

Teams with a growth mindset (which all start-ups should have) look far beyond their current needs. As a leader of an organization, it's important to ask questions like, “Where do we see the company in a year? What about five? What tech infrastructure will our team need to support expected growth?” By asking these questions early on, your team will be able to better prepare for the future and support the company’s fast trajectory ahead. 

Before selecting a solution, check to make sure it can scale with your team's needs. By opting for a more robust tech stack, your finance team will be able to prevent unnecessary upgrade delays later on. Remember, time is money. Plan accordingly. 

2. Invest in an FP&A team

Traditional finance teams spend the majority of their time focusing on the accounting and operational metrics side of the business. While these tasks are a necessary part of any finance function’s list of duties, organizations should also be taking a forward-looking approach to their overall planning and strategizing. 

How can this be done? By investing in financial planning and analysis. When creating a finance function, make sure your finance team hires FP&A analysts that focus on financial forecasting, budgeting, and scenario planning. By combining both backward and forward-looking players on your team, the entire organization will be able to gain better insight and devise a more strategic roadmap moving forward. 

A mistake many companies make during the early stages is building out their FP&A team too late in the game. By hiring these key positions early on, you’ll be able to create a more well-rounded finance function that will drive revenue and support organizational growth. 

3. Stay scrappy

No matter how much your organization has earned in revenue or how many rounds of funding it’s gone through, Jenny says it's important to always stay scrappy.  By maintaining a cost-conscious mindset, your team will be able to allocate budget responsibly to necessary resources. 

Keep in mind that your team may have to weigh their options and make careful decisions, especially during the early stages. From ramping up headcount to investing in a new FP&A solution, these decisions should be carefully considered so management continues to spend and invest wisely.  

4. Implement formal processes strategically

Assembling a fully-operating finance function takes time, strategy, and patience. Don’t rush the process. When your organization starts seeing that upward momentum rise, make sure the finance team is still being strategic with their time. While there may be a million and one things to accomplish on the to-do list, remember to prioritize the most critical tasks first. 

This is especially important when building out formal processes. Your team is going to have to pick and choose what to prioritize. When it comes to building out more complex operations, make sure your team is selective about what they are creating instead of taking a blanketed approach and sprinkling their energy everywhere they can. What Jenny likes to say to teams is they should implement formal processes when it is really necessary, not when it’s a “nice to have.”

5. Stay agile & adaptive

What works today may not work tomorrow. This is especially true for start-ups. Having an agile team that can stay on their toes at all times will allow the entire organization to course-correct as needed. 

Taking a forward-looking approach will also shape the mindset of employees to be prepped for growth. By setting clear goals as an organization, team members will have a more direct vision on how they can support organizational objectives. Stay agile, stay prepared, and stay open to change. Success isn’t always cut and dry, but with the right expectations and preparation, any organization can soar to new heights. 

6. Hire before you need a critical position filled

Are there organizational cracks within your company? Are there certain jobs that cannot be done because of a lack of talent? If you need a specialist for a particular job, do not wait to fill that gap. 

This all boils down to proper planning and preparation. Make sure management has a general idea of what their team will look like in five months, one year, three years, or beyond. By having a clear game plan with easy-to-follow objectives, an organization can be properly prepared as it begins to escalate. 

7.  Take care of your people

Remember, people come first. Always. Your people are your biggest asset as well as your biggest cost. Do not take advantage of top talent or take their skills for granted. In today’s competitive hiring environment, you simply cannot afford to neglect your employees. If you do, you can expect high turnover, low employee morale, and a disjointed organization that under performs. 

By communicating with each employee, you’ll have a better idea of their challenges, expectations, and desires within the organization as a whole. Remember, employees want to feel appreciated, they want to be challenged, and they want their careers to be able to help them grow professionally and personally. 

Instilling that kind of company culture will not only help your team retain top talent, but it will also attract new candidates to your hiringboard in the future. 

Wrapping up 

The path to growth is not always a straight and easy road. Your team may have to jump a few hurdles and clear a few roadblocks to achieve the success they strive for. But with the right mindset, perseverance, and strategy, anything is possible.