Is it possible to scale back to a slower pace once a rapid scale has begun? In what situations is this necessary? What effects can it have on the overall success of the startup?
I learned this one the hard way. Once the company culture is out of whack, it is almost impossible to rebuild or regain it. Culture is fluid, and each new employee impacts what it is and how it will be defined moving forward. By the time you are sensing bad company culture, it's too late. This is a lagging indicator.
With respect to maintaining company culture during rapid scaling, I think the CEO needs to dedicate almost 1/3 of their time to this one topic. Let me tell you what I do, based on my own hacks and what I have learned from others (including Slack, Basecamp, Zappos, JetBlue and a ton of other great brands.)
1. I personally conduct the PartnerHero Culture 101 session for all of our new associates. The best place to hear "culture" is straight from the horses mouth. As the founder/CEO, I'm that horse. The session occurs during the first two weeks, in our PH Acadamy. We go over everything, but I personally do the culture piece and explain, in detail, how culture is linked to everything we do: achieving our vision, meeting our client expectations, growth, financial health, marketing, development, etc.
2. Every 6-months, I do a 1x1 with each of our employees, and only focus on a handful of questions: how are you doing, tell me what you think we are doing well, tell me what we are not doing so well, have we lost our way, and if so: how should we fix it? It's very time-consuming, but there is no more important job for the CEO, especially when you are scaling. This is where/how you detect early warning signs of a crack in your culture.
We do all the other stuff, like surveys, roundtables, lunch & learns, etc. But another really great hack is to ask your customers what they think your culture is. We do this with prospects, new clients, and longer-term clients. Really interesting what you hear and learn. Another great input into your planning and execution.