How to overcome collaboration challenges as businesses scale

When a business is first starting out, and there’s just a handful of people involved, collaboration tends to be straightforward. It’s hard for things to fall through the cracks when everyone’s across the detail and getting an update from another department is as simple as tapping a desk-neighbour on the shoulder.

However, as that company begins to grow, proximity can no longer be relied upon as the failsafe for collaboration. Messages end up getting lost or buried in inboxes. Crucial team members might be out sick or on holiday when an important meeting is happening, teams and departments are spread across different rooms, offices, and remote locations.

Without the right processes and platforms in place, this growth leads to collaboration slowing down. Everything takes longer, more mistakes are made, and culture suffers. So, how can organisations taking the next step in their journey overcome these growing pains?

Starting with a collaboration strategy that’s ready to scale

One of the biggest problems small businesses face when they start to grow is that they don’t rethink their approach to communication and collaboration. A bigger size requires a different approach and a new mindset. However, too often businesses continue to use the tools and strategies that they relied on when first starting out – often a mix of email, consumer messaging apps and office conversations. This hodge-podge of solutions, however, isn’t ready to scale.

Just take email for example. The average UK employee at a small business loses eight hours and 42 minutes to drafting emails every single week – with only 42% of those emails being fully read or understood. This amounts to a huge amount of productivity being flushed down the drain – and it’s a loss that small businesses can’t afford. Meanwhile, employees are left feeling that their questions are going unanswered and that they can’t succeed in their role because they lack the information they need.

To keep work on track, growing teams need to rethink their approach to communication and ensure that everyone can easily share and search data and knowledge. This starts with channel-based collaboration. Rather than having everyone in separate inboxes, channels are shared, organised spaces for conversations to happen around specific projects or teams.

This comes with many benefits. Not only does it make it easier to find the right information, keep on top of messages and free up time to focus on other tasks, but it also keeps the younger generations – who rightly view email as a relic of the past – more engaged. Most importantly, though, this modern approach means that communication will be ready to scale as the business grows.

When added to a channel, new hires aren’t starting from a lonely inbox zero – they can see all the activity taking place, immediately engage coworkers and learn from what’s come before so they can hit the ground running.

Big and dispersed teams can keep close connections

As those new hires are added and businesses grow, they’re increasingly likely to have a mix of spaces that teams work from – including not just offices, but homes, hotels, cafes and more. That calls for a platform that can flex to the needs of the business and its shifting workforce, which keeps people connected and engaged no matter the physical distance between them.

The team at Virtual Dining Concepts (VDC) recognised this need, with the organisation offering restaurant owners and operators a way to maximise their spaces with delivery-only concepts – meaning the team would often be travelling, taking a look at new restaurants and meeting with chefs or owners. By using Slack, they’re able to stay closely connected wherever they are – using the channel to share updates, hopping on instant audio or video huddles to catch up live, or sharing video clips from their travels.

By keeping everyone connected and engaged wherever they are, the business and the team can go from strength to strength, even as they grow and spread to new locations.

Preparing for the journey ahead

Part of the excitement of being in a small business is not knowing exactly what’s ahead. However, that thrill turns to frustration if the organisation doesn’t have the right tools for the next chapter. Choosing the right communication solutions isn’t just about working smarter and faster (though it helps with that too), it’s about making sure that the business can adapt, scale and flex as it grows.

For small businesses today, that means embracing tools that are purpose-built and ready to drive brilliant work for both a team of twenty, and a team of two hundred. Tools that can keep a team dispersed across the world as tightly connected as one that’s starting out in the founder’s spare room.

By getting these systems in place early, businesses can skip the growing-pains that so many face, and instead focus on the fundamentals: great work, incredible customer experiences, and, yes, that next stage of growth that’s always on the horizon.