Productivity tips when scaling from a start-up to a mid-sized business

This post is sponsored by Shootsta.

We at Shootsta have grown from a three-man show to a 16-strong team in Asia in under 12 months. Globally, we started the year with 25 people and now have 61, so we definitely know a thing or two about the challenges of scaling.

When you’re a start-up, you probably wear many hats, and work in an open plan office that encourages face-to-face communication. But as you scale, suddenly teams grow bigger, duties pile up, and you find yourself being pulled in different directions. Shouting across the office to communicate no longer works and you are not able to focus on the things that you previously were able to.

So here’s a few things we’ve been implementing to maximise our productivity.

1. Use technology to your advantage

Productivity to me means efficiently using our finite resources, and successfully automating what can be automated using tech tools. One tool I heavily rely on is Activeinbox. It’s a Gmail plug-in which enables me to sort every email I send and receive. I can tag it to a later date for me to get back on, or I can tag a task or note to it. I no longer carry a notebook for my to-do lists, it’s all in my inbox using my Activeinbox tool, and costs as little as six coffees.

Another favourite tool of mine is Coggle which enables me to create mind maps. It’s a great way to organise thoughts and long-term goals and visions for the business.

Last, Google Alerts is a great tool to keep on top of what’s happening in the industry. Every day I receive two Google Alerts emails that funnel to me every article, video, or anything produced around two specific topics: content marketing and video marketing. I get 20 articles on each topic, but obviously I don’t read every article. Even if you just glance at the emails, you can read top-line titles of what’s happening in a particular industry, which beats being clueless about it.

2. Take on tasks that you are confident of doing. Delegate the rest.

Especially if you’re a company that’s growing, when you start trying to do everything in-house, you end up not doing anything particularly well. What should be done in-house is what’s core to your business and what your team members are capable of.

One benefit of taking things in-house is the fact that you have more control over the process and sometimes the outcome of the task. However, I don’t believe that in-house is faster than outsourcing, unless you have a dedicated person to do these tasks. People get side-tracked by other duties that take time, because their job scope may be generalised (for example, marketing, PR or video production). When you outsource, you get a very specialised, dedicated resource that is entirely focused on it.

I’ll use the example of video here because that’s what I know. When it comes to video production, you want to keep in-house the ideation and pre-production because you know best the stories you want to tell. You want to outsource the technical, mundane things that don’t bring value to your business such as post-production. This concept can be applied to any type of process or activity.

Leverage on the specialities that your team is best at, and outsource everything a partner will accomplish better and faster, so that you can really focus on what brings value to your business.

3. Take some time to read up on what’s happening in the industry.

A lot of people get so caught up in their day to day work that they forget to take some time to read what’s happening in the industry. You should choose a few blogs and have some protected time to read them fairly thoroughly every week.

You should also follow a couple of podcasts on whatever topic you’re passionate about. We’re a talkative industry, and you can find podcasts on just about any topic. And that’s how you get inspiration about new things you want to implement or create.

4. Keep the work environment dynamic and energetic

At Shootsta’s Sydney office, we have a mandatory ping-pong tournament every day at 2.30pm, right after people come back from lunch, when energy levels start to dip. This pumps everyone back up. It’s important to create those motivating activities that can be seen as a break.

In open plan offices, there is a lot of activity, you talk with colleagues about work and then you jump to, “How’s your weekend?”, then you move back to work. When you create the right environment, people don’t actually need a lot of breaks and the whole day feels easygoing.

5. Practise deep work

Because of the interruption of meetings in an open space, and people depending on your opinion and guidance on many matters, one thing I would recommend is to make some time for deep work in a new environment. Not just a new spot in your office or home, but a completely new environment such as a different cafe, park, or even city.

Recently, I spent three days in Bali working. For the entire three days, I would clear my emails in the morning, and then would not open my inbox until an allocated time later. In those three days, I accomplished more in terms of long-term goals and ticking off stuff in my mind map than I had in months. That’s the concept of deep work: take a few days, keep your focus 100%, and you’re productively ticking off all the big tasks without external disruption.

The writer is Antoine Bouchacourt, vice-president of Asia at Shootsta.