Growing pains: How Fave overcame its expansion issues

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Mobile payments app Fave’s Head of Strategic Initiative revealed what HR problems the company ran into after it acquired Groupon.

 

The first-ever HR Festival Asia, brought to you by the combined experience of HR Technology Conference & Exposition (US) and HR Summit (Asia), takes over the Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre on May 8 and 9.

With a line-up of more than 100 speakers across six dedicated streams, and an Expo Hall with more than 100 exhibitors, there’s a little something for everyone at the event.

Check out our HR Festival Asia tag for more coverage direct from the event.

Fave, a popular mobile payments and rewards platform, has seen its fair share of challenges  since it was launched in 2015.

Audra Pakalnyte (pictured), Head of Strategic Initiatives, Fave Group, shared the group’s story with the HR and Digital Transformation stream at HR Festival Asia. She explained how the company first came into being as a fitness app called KFIT, but was soon forced to change course because there was not enough demand for that specific service.

“We had to pivot in order to move forward. Pivots are pivotal when you get stuck. So in July 2015, we launched Fave,” said Pakalnyte.

Three months later, Fave acquired Groupon Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia. This saw headcount jump from 70 to over 200. Pakalnyte said this presented scaling problems for the company, several of which she highlighted during her talk.

“It’s not just start-ups that face these. Even larger corporations that are scaling up will run into them,” she said.

Running out of space, literally

With its staff size growing over three times in a matter of months, Fave found that an open office layout was economic for space utilisation but bad for employee productivity. Many markets soon switched to a co-working concept, which Pakalnyte said proved to be much more efficient and cost-effective.

The trap of building a mediocre team

“No one wants a mediocre team, but sometimes we fall into the trap of building one,” said Pakalnyte.

She gave the example of an early employee being given the power to hire for a growing team. “Chances are, they will not hire someone more experienced than them for fear of being replaced.”

Hiring the wrong people and not letting go of people fast enough will also cause problems further down the road, she added.

“Giving away your ‘legos’”

Pakalnyte believes that in order for companies to grow, employees must be willing to “change” their roles every three months, and give away their “legos” – the responsibilities and projects that they have grown attached to.

Inadequate communication 

One of the biggest problems for many organisations is the lack of communication, said Pakalnyte.

“As you scale up to over 100 employees, even chat groups become ineffective. People start losing understanding of the company’s decisions, directions, etc,” she said. “Once you start receiving these questions, you know you have screwed up on your communications.”

Pakalnyte suggested that companies conduct weekly conversations, rather than monthly or quarterly townhalls.

Unclear about culture

Perhaps the most challenging part of expansion lies in culture-building.

“We are at a weird stage of growth now. My teams often ask me if we are a start-up or a corporation. But we’re neither,” said Pakalnyte, adding that the key at this crucial stage is to establish clear cultural values.

With uncertainty a recurring theme during periods of mergers and acquisitions, Pakalnyte’s parting word of advice to HR practitioners is for them to be “comfortable with uncertainty”. “That’s the only way to help your people grow,” she said.



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