As a company grows, the top levels of the organization must change. Going from a founder with a few early employees to a billion-dollar company with multiple divisions and operating units involves many intermediate steps in the leadership structure.
As a leadership coach, I work with many different types of companies and different types of teams to help them through these transitions. Below are the some of the main strategies that we use to organize and group the leaders of a growing company, and what each of them focuses on, and how they operate.
1. Leadership team
The leadership team is a general term for the group of the highest leaders in each department or domain of the business. This is also called the C-suite as it contains all of the C-level people in the company: the CEO, COO, CFO, and CMO. Not every company want to give these leaders “Chief” titles, so I tend to just use leadership team to represent this group, rather than C-suit or C-team.
The main focus of the leadership team is to develop company strategy and set the high-level execution targets. They also coordinate the high-level activities of each functional unit (finance, marketing, operations, etc.) and set the parameters for company operations and high-level policies.
In the early stages of a company, the leadership team might only be the founder and one or two key players in the business. As a company grows and the separation of the business functions become more formal and leaders are appointed, the leadership team will expand and grow.
2. Management Team
The management team consists of the leadership team plus any other executives who are directly involved in the implementation of the business strategy. These are the people who are responsible for implementing the strategy, high-level quarterly development priorities, and action items that will drive business initiatives.
The another key role of the management team is to gather data and perspective on issues that need broader input. This group is required when the leadership team doesn’t have enough on-the-ground knowledge to handle everything because the company has become bigger and more complex
3. Strategy Team
When the leadership team is large and the strategy work is more complex and nuanced, I will often create a smaller strategy team, using a subset of the leadership team, who can dig deeper into the issues, topics, data, and research.
I generally keep this team limited to three to five key people, selected from the leadership team, including the CEO and COO and often the CFO and CMO. This team could also include the top leaders in sales, product design, legal, and technology. In some cases we’ve included one or two experts from other parts of the company who are not C-suite such as technical or subject matter experts.
4. Leadership Subcommittees
When topics come up on the leadership team or management team around specific policies and operational parameters, a leadership subcommittee can be a great approach. Keep them to three to five people and give them a clear scope. They should collect data, do analysis, and make recommendations.
5. Board of Advisors
Not to be confused with a board of directors, a board of advisors doesn’t have any decision making powers or fiduciary responsibilities. They are purely an advisory group that helps with strategy development and setting priorities. The key to a good board of advisors is to balance and extend the leadership team and to cover gaps and blind spots.
6. Ownership Team
In the case of a privately held company, I will often create a separate ownership team. These are the people who have real equity in the business. The scope of the team can be just advisory, or they can participate in strategy and management discussions. At a minimum they need to handle the governance issues required under the articles of organization including membership meetings and voting on key matters. For family-owned companies, this is also where we tackle issues of multiparty voting rights and succession planning.
Few companies need all of the these teams, and no companies needs all of them at the beginning. It’s about iterating and adapting to your changing needs and finding a solution that gets the work done effectively, and efficiently.