As your company starts to grow in scope and size, it also grows in complexity—which can be hard for any founder to navigate. Yet it’s likely that the scaling challenges your company is facing aren’t unique to you and your business.

By understanding what the common scaling challenges are, you can start to recognize patterns and avoid the issues most founders face as they grow their startup.

“If you develop an understanding of the archetypal challenges associated with rapid scaling, you can build in design for scalability,” says Harvard Business Professor School Professor Jeffrey Rayport. “There are decisions you can make early to mitigate risk.”

When asked what those challenges are, Rayport breaks them down into what he calls the “Six S Framework.” Or rather, the six areas founders should focus on when building their venture. They are:

  1. Staff
  2. Shared values
  3. Structure
  4. Speed
  5. Scope
  6. Series X

Here is a closer look at what each of those areas mean and the impact they can have on your growing business.

Applying the six s framework

1. Staff


You can’t scale your venture alone. You need a team of talented, highly motivated staff who believe in the company’s mission. For resource-constrained startups, the right talent can change everything: High performers are 400 percent more productive than the average employee, according to McKinsey. As roles grow in complexity, that productivity number jumps to 800 percent.

When a company is in a rapid growth phase, it often feels easier to hire just anyone who can get the work done. But as Apple Founder Steve Jobs once said: “Go after the cream of the cream. A small team of A+ players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players.” If you compromise on talent early, it’s harder to backtrack.

“You need to set a high bar for the first few recruits in the venture,” Rayport says. “You can’t compromise on that first wave, because they’ll be the ones who propagate the values of your organization. Pretty soon, they’ll also be hiring the next wave, and they’ll hire performers who are a lot like them.”

          Related: 4 Challenges to Avoid When Scaling Your Venture

2. Shared Values


Shared values represent a company’s culture, and are what defines how employees interact, solve problems, and work with one another, according to Rayport. As individuals encounter challenges and learn how to collectively address them, particular patterns are reinforced and ultimately coalesce into shared values and beliefs about how work gets done.

“Most startups have a culture that is a direct reflection or translation of the founders’ personalities and values,” Rayport says. “And most founders are largely unaware of the outsized impact they have in instilling the culture of their organization.”

One of the biggest scaling challenges around culture is de-personalizing the company’s values, so they feel less like mantras shaped by a few individuals, and more like a shared organizational fabric.

“You need to make those implicit values explicit and take the time to write them down,” Rayport says. “It’s important to separate cultural inputs from outputs. Most ventures describe the culture they want, which are the outputs, as opposed to determining the actions founders can take, or the inputs, to deliver on that culture.”

3. Structure


How you structure your organization is crucial to success. As the company grows, so, too, should the number of decision-makers. The founders can’t be involved in every detail of the business once it scales. It’s important to recruit seasoned leaders with specific skill sets or develop employees who can thrive in environments with more specialized roles.

Training new employees can feel like additional work, but taking the time to properly onboard them pays dividends later. It’s all about creating leverage to deliver on the founders’ vision—and that requires not only recruiting the right people, but structuring their roles and the organization in ways that favor growth. If you don’t let go, your organization won’t scale.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos encourages failure. As he once wrote in a shareholder letter, as reported in