All Articles Leadership Strategy Your company is at 50 employees. What's next?

Your company is at 50 employees. What’s next?

Nine entrepreneurs share what you'll need to be aware of as your company passes the 50-employee mark.

4 min read


yec_Chris Cancialosi

The Young Entrepreneur Council is an invite-only organization composed of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses. Read previous SmartBrief posts by YEC.

If you enjoy this article, join SmartBrief’s e-mail list for our daily newsletter for entrepreneurs.

Q. What one potential issue should you be most aware of when your company passes the 50-employee mark? 

1. Your culture and policies will evolve

Be aware of getting away from your roots. That many employees creates a situation where you can lose focus on the foundation that made you successful to begin with. That may be OK, but it may be a fatal mistake. Understanding your culture and making intentional decisions about how the organization will need to evolve to be successful in the next chapter should be an ongoing discussion. — Chris Cancialosi, gothamCulture

2. You can’t manage everyone anymore

When your team is small, around 20 to 30 people, you can still manage to meet with or chat with everyone on a daily basis. Once that number hits 50, it will get too hectic to try to be the project manager for your entire company. It’s still good to interact with all of your employees, but you won’t be able to do it so often anymore (perhaps once a week). You’ll have to learn to delegate. — Dave Nevogt,

3. You’ll have to re-evaluate your hiring procedures

Even the busiest CEOs make time for hiring. After all, it’s one of the most important decisions of a firm. But when you’re taking on multiple employees rapidly and scaling to that size, that might not be realistic. If you want to maintain A-players at that size, you’re going to have to create systems to supplement (at least some of) your individual vetting. — Elle Kaplan, LexION Capital

4. You must communicate your culture

I joke that I used to run my business like a hippie commune, and we had huge success and a beautiful culture. Growing to 50 employees can be like herding cats if you don’t have written standards, manuals and procedures in place. Employees crave structure and want to understand what is expected of them. You can still have a great culture, you just have to explain it better. — Alisha Navarro, 2 Hounds Design

5. HR Is no longer the founders’ job

When a startup is small, founders do the hiring and firing. But as companies become larger, the amount of time required to properly manage human resources and compliance issues grows. A founder’s time is usually not best spent dealing with these issues. Hire a human resources professional who can take on the workload and protect your company from legal and compliance issues. — Vik Patel, Future Hosting

6. You’ll need to avoid bureaucratic inefficiencies

Avoid becoming too bureaucratic and top heavy. Having infinite approval processes and managers at every level will make your business sluggish to react and respond to constantly changing market forces. Invest in employees who are self-directed and can complete tasks efficiently without the need for the constant supervision and correction from management. — Duran Inci, Optimum7

7. Systems and infrastructure will change

Do you have the right systems and processes in place? If not, then it doesn’t make sense to keep hiring, as new hires just create more problems. First, ensure that you are as optimized and efficient as you can possibly be. This means having the right systems in place. Review your infrastructure to ensure that your company can keep running smoothly, as you may need to make some changes. — Ismael Wrixen, FE International

8. It’s harder to move everyone in the same direction

When a team is smaller, it’s easier for everyone to be on the same page about the company’s goals and priorities. Once a company passes 50 employees, you’ll start seeing competing priorities and people moving in different directions. At this size, consider implementing OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) to connect each individual’s and department’s goals to the company’s overall priorities. — Roger Lee, Captain401

9. Every project will need a clear owner

With a flat structure, projects with undefined ownership end up falling by the wayside. At that point in your company’s growth trajectory, it’s important to look at how your company is organized. Once you pivot to an explicit organizational structure, every project should have a clear owner. Organizational structure works best when you have teams and managers, and it helps projects move a lot faster. — Chris Savage, Wistia