The challenges of managing a rapidly expanding team

Author: Kirsty Tuxford | Date: 22 Dec 2015

”A personal approach is better than one-size-fits-all,” says StartUp Awards winner

Understanding employees’ personal motivations is the best way to build a cohesive team, according to the man behind the newly crowned best start-up in the UAE.
Compareit4me, a price comparison website for financial products, won SME of the Year at the recent annual Arabian Business StartUp Awards. The Dubai-based organisation was set up in 2011 and was congratulated by the judging panel for its fast growth and expansion across eight regional markets.
The rapid ascent of the organisation meant management had to adapt swiftly to the changing needs of their staff. “To begin with, when it came to managing our team, we naively thought that one approach would work for everyone. We assumed everyone needed to be motivated by fun or money, but as we grew we quickly learned that people are different,” said CEO Jon Richards. “Every member of the team is at a different stage of their career and is motivated by different factors. We understand now that a more personal approach is better than one-size-fits-all, and believe this is appreciated by our team.”
Compareit4me’s office has a youthful vibe, with table tennis, electric scooters and remote control cars. “We like to achieve, but it’s important for us to have fun in the process,” Richards said.
“We currently have a staff of 24, with an average age of 30, 7:3 female to male ratio and 10 different nationalities. In terms of my people management style, I like to have a very broad top-level goal for everyone. While we all share the same goal, from senior staff down to our more junior members, I like everyone to work in their own way and reach the goal on their own. If anyone needs my assistance, of course they can have it. But I like them to go about their personal ‘mission’ alone and get there how they feel is best.”
The Start-up Programme of the Year award was clinched by AstroLabs, a tech hub in Dubai powered by Google. Founding partner Louis Lebbos explained what lay behind their success: “We focus on working with partners who make things happen. That focus led us to partner with Google For Entrepreneurs and the Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC) when developing our tech hub, which is already home to more than 50 technology start-ups one month after launch. Our AstroLabs Academy delivers high quality training programmes covering a variety of digital and technology topics, and we take extreme care in developing relevant and high quality content with hand-selected instructors.”
Team management is something that AstroLabs has focused special attention on. “Driven, high performing team members are five to 10 times more productive. That puts a high bar on recruiting and performance management. Even for small organisations, selecting the best team members, setting the right goals and metrics for them and caring about their personal development is the critical part for success,” said Lebbos.