IN THE MIDDLE | beyond the job description

Powering Through the Challenges of Scaling Up a Startup

By Alyanna Silvestre
Published August 10, 2022

It's a default for business owners and entrepreneurs to aim for success, and growth signals success for many. However, not every business is prepared nor equipped to grab the new opportunities that come with scaling and deal with the new problems and challenges that demand unique solutions.

This is something Shoppertainment LIVE, the Philippines' first livestream shopping network, wants to avoid – being a startup company unfit for growth, unprepared for the evolving market needs or demands, and incapable of overcoming oncoming challenges, especially in relation to Human Resources which is basically the backbone of every business.

With this, under the recently opened learning and development initiative Shoppertainment Academy, Shoppertainment LIVE held an exclusive seminar tackling the challenges faced by entrepreneurs and human resources practitioners in the startup industry. The event unfolded insights on establishing better HR processes and expanding business knowledge, expertise, and audience reach through business partnerships from Great Deals E-Commerce Corp. Human Resource Vice President Jennifer Tan and Canva Country Human Resources Lead Alvanson So. 

Here are some of the many key points during the intimate conference that may come in handy for your business!

Embracing chaos, relationships, and transformation
Human resources is primarily associated with employees as they're known to be responsible for managing the employee life cycle, but not a lot understand that they're mostly linked to team managers because, as Tan put it, managers are active partners of HR.

This is probably weird and unusual for some since we're so used to having HR as the 'partners' of a department or the one helping the other. But in truth, HR practitioners need a hand, too, especially when they're in a small team in the middle of a growing startup business since it would be highly challenging to keep everyone from different groups and departments informed and in check.

Anchoring on that, mutual support between HR and the management is vital to help handle uncharted waters that come with growth. Remember that it should be two-way. As the human resources department aids managers in terms of facilitating development opportunities and creating systems and processes that support great leadership, the management must, in turn, really embody the kind of oversight expected from managers of all experience levels. They must make that extra effort to actually foster relationships with their subordinates and skillfully explain tough business decisions to their team, especially those that are likely to raise eyebrows and draw criticism and resistance.

“Not everyone is built for growth.”

-Jennifer Tan, HRVP at Great Deals E-Commerce Corp.

    Aside from clarifying the relationship between HR and management, Tan also explained the importance of laying the foundation for the company's culture.

    Managing a startup business is, without a doubt, chaotic, especially for growing ones in the middle of complex transformations to continuously cater to the evolving needs of their target consumers. There's no way to steer clear of such a challenge, but a way to make it a little easier to manage is with a culture that encompasses the company's vision, beliefs and values.

    With a clear culture, it would be easier to onboard and supervise employees as it defines the proper way to behave within the organization and ensures everyone is rallying around a common cause and working toward the same goal. This is especially helpful for startups with onboarded professionals who already have their own identities and principles.

    Additionally, with a clear and strong organizational culture already set, startups will be able to foster employee engagement and keep values-aligned employees onboard, effectively reducing the cost of staff turnover and talent acquisition.

    Cracking the code to successful business partnering

    The ultimate goal of fostering business partnerships, either with clients or among multiple departments, is to find a common ground, help the other party see why your proposal makes sense, and ultimately, establish a partnership. With this, Alvanson So of Canva shared three I’s that summarize the success of pursuing new business partnerships: Insight, Influence, and Impact.

    “A partnership is a tug of war that's going the opposite direction.”

    -Alvanson So, Country Human Resources Lead at Canva

      • Insight: The Deduce and Discern

      The first thing is finding out their ‘what.’

      Before you insert yourself in the picture, you’ll need to understand their situation and what they intend to address. A thorough observation is necessary, so take the time to gather information and consider even the littlest of things to be able to perceive a positive outcome for them (and for you). If you barely have knowledge of their situation, you’ll find it hard to address what’s in it for them.

      • Influence: The Reasoning

      The next thing is to build a trust-driven relationship and establish why entering a business partnership makes sense or why they should listen to you.

      For this part, you can easily make use of the insights you’ve gathered to make them think the way you think. A combination of facts, data, and empathy makes the perfect recipe to back up your reasoning, address their concerns (which you’ve already deduced in the first ‘I’), and appeal to them in a personal or emotional way. This will show that you know what you’re talking about or you understand what they’re going through and where they’re coming from based on your personal experience and deep understanding of the business, products, programs, people, or policies. 

      • Impact: The Value Added

      As So said in his talk, “Strategic partnerships should strive for value creation.” With this, to seal the deal, you must show how forging a business partnership will consistently generate value that’s stable, monetizable or has no monetary value but can significantly influence the bottomline, and scalable in the sense that it’s flexible enough to adapt to changing environments and needs.

      Before he ended his presentation, he shared one last bit of information: the secret ingredient to becoming an ideal business partner which is to have a learning mindset.

      “A successful business partner has to have a learning mindset, willing to understand the business, its operations, its challenges, its opportunities, and its people,” So explained. “Only then can you teach, tell and solve how best to resolve problems and achieve goals.”

      In other words, with a learning mindset, you get to accomplish the three I’s of a successful business partnership because to seek insight, plot your reasoning, and bank on value creation, you first need to have the curiosity or the desire to understand and learn from the other party’s point of view and acclimate your opinion and approach accordingly.

      Welcoming the challenges of scaling

      For professionals in developing startups, scaling up can be scary, what with the challenges that come with it that may make them think they’re not ready. However, scaling is growth, adversity is necessary to be better, and the hurdles and struggles to overcome make success sweeter.