Staff numbers "rules of thumb"


I am looking for "rules of thumb", or estimates for the numbers of staff required for a startup through growth.

For example how many developers per manager, how many support staff per customer, how many sales / marketing staff per product / market etc.

My company is software development heavy with potentially quite heavy support requirements with approx 10,000 total business customers, however I am keen to also see templates from a range of industries so dont worry about the configuration of my particular business, the more I can read the better.


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asked May 27 '10 at 00:33
Ian Wilson
88 points
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  • I should stress that I am not looking for an answer but rather examples of other companies patterns. – Ian Wilson 14 years ago

2 Answers


I don't think there's any single answer that makes sense. This is sort of like asking, "What is the temperature?" Well, somewhere between -50 and 50 degrees celsius, in most places. Startups need somewhere between 1 and 10,000 employees.

Developers per manager = about 5. Less than that if the manager also codes. More than that if the developers are very mature.

Support staff per customer = varies DRAMATICALLY. If you have a good product, zero. If you have a terrible product or one which needs a lot of customization and support, a lot.

Sales/marketing staff per product = varies DRAMATICALLY. If you have a good product, zero. People find out about it. If you have a product that really needs to be sold, A LOT.

answered May 27 '10 at 01:17
Joel Spolsky
13,482 points


A couple of rules of thumb I have used in the past:

  • 7 +/- 1 for the number of reports a manager should have
  • $150-$250k of revenue per employee (when in the growth stage)
  • Support depends a lot on the product. Customers that spend more should be supported more. The more the product costs, the more support required and expected (in general).
  • Sales depends on the product as well. The same rules apply as for support. For sales, some of the models I have seen are $1M-$2M in sales per sales-person all the way up to $5-$10M. Again depending on the product.

Another thing to look at is your sales, support and revenue per employee numbers now and how that relates to customer satisfaction. You may have build a wonderful product that sells itself or needs very little handholding.

answered May 27 '10 at 03:53
Jarie Bolander
11,421 points

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