You thought the hard part was over once you established your business, but scaling brings new challenges and different dynamics that business leaders need to deal with.
First, let’s define scaling up
What are scale up businesses? Simply put, they are those of high growth that can increase their turnover by at least 20% for 3 consecutive years whilst creating employment opportunities. The ScaleUp Institute place a high value on their contribution to the UK’s economic growth and national productivity. Basically, they are a critical part of our economy.
If you see a scale up ambition in the future of your business, you need to have a clear strategy to give yourself every chance of success. The ScaleUp Institute's Annual Scaleup Review 2018 highlighted five key challenges you may encounter when your business grows.
5 Steps to Scaleup Success
We have identified the challenges. Now let’s take each challenge and transform it into an opportunity for growth.
1: Talent and Skills
It’s important to have the right level of talent and skills, at the right time.
Attracting talent. Think about your company’s brand. You may need to develop it by working on your website and social media to get your unique voice out there. Does it entice the top talent to drop you an email or get in touch with you on LinkedIn?
Value your team. Employees are more than just overheads, they are what adds real value to your company. Therefore, you need to nurture them and focus on creating a healthy, positive workplace culture so that they thrive. Offering them a fair and attractive employment package will also help retain them.
Skills shortages. Work with the local universities and colleges to develop skills. Skills can be taught if you hire the right people with the right attitude for your business.
Hire before you are desperate. Leaving the hiring process too late may be detrimental and you may have to settle on less than the best. You need the right people with you on your growth journey and should be recruiting “A” players who have the right attitude and can demonstrate the right values. If you get this right “A” players will help you achieve your business objectives more quickly and will be able to keep up with the increased pace.
Be honest. What are you, the business owner, good at? More importantly, what are your weaknesses? What are you spending time on that could be delegated to someone else? It’s important, that you are focussed on the right things such as strategy and effective delegation will provide quicker and better results during your scale up. It’s also important to assess the attitude and skills of your existing employees to decide if they are the right for your business going forward. Do what is best for your company, even though it might be difficult to let them go.
You must have your finances in order and monitor the right numbers.
Increase your knowledge on the finance that is available to you. You should research all options available to fund your business growth, so that you determine the most appropriate for your situation. Scaleup Partners can discuss these options and introduce you to contacts. Finance Camp is an excellent event to learn about access to finance and to meet the relevant companies and people who can help.
Attract investors. Investors are interested in more than just figures. Proving that your growth will continue and demonstrating how you will achieve it, will be most attractive to them. Prove your agility, innovation, vision and put together a clear strategy, as well as how you will address weaknesses and threats to your business. SWOT and PEST analyses are a good starting point.
Put your business model under the spotlight. Go to events, look for networking and PR opportunities.
Keep working on your business. Fast growth sees many changes across all departments. You must keep stepping back and taking in the whole picture, so that you do not miss any opportunities.
How and when is cash received? Ensure your cash strategy is constantly reviewed and aligned accordingly with your business growth. Scaleup sucks cash and it’s important to plan ahead.
You need new customers. To keep scaling, it is important that you recognise your need for acquiring new customers (potentially through accessing new markets) to maintain your growth momentum. It’s beneficial to speak with a marketing strategist who can advise you on effective inbound marketing.
Get comfortable saying no. Stay specific when it comes to your growth. It is important to say no sometimes, if your business focus is impacted. Clearly define your business objectives and your target audience.
Research is key in identifying market opportunities. Learn as much as you can to take the right steps for your business. Scaleup North East have a research team that can help with this.
4: Leadership Capacity
Take a look at yourself.
Develop new skills. Although it is your natural instinct as a business owner to pile all of the excess responsibility associated with business growth on yourself, the key to success is recognising that you may need to develop new leadership skills where you feel weakest. You need to be honest with yourself, after all not even the greatest business leaders know everything.
Step back. As a business leader, you must step back and look at the whole picture in order to gain most clarity.
Top Tip: The people section in the book Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It…and Why the Rest Don’t written by Verne Harnish and the team at Gazelles is an excellent resource for leadership as is The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do by Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller.
Be flexible. When scaling up your business you can look at cloud technology and possibly having a flexible workforce. It’s important to be agile whilst having the ability to manage what is happening in the business. These flexible routes can be financially beneficial for your company in a period of growth and can allow you to quickly respond to opportunities as they happen.
Choose wisely. Obtaining the right IT systems to process a much higher level of demand is critical at this time. New business can become an operational nightmare if systems aren’t robust and tailored to your needs. As employee numbers rise, management systems are important as it is no longer possible to have a quick walk around to see what everyone is working on.
Tackling these 5 challenges correctly will be sure to help your business scale and Scaleup North East is the programme to help you achieve success. Find out more and register your interest today.
Angelina Bell is a Scaleup Partner with Scaleup North East and a National Business Coach and Mentor.
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