Scaling up is a make-or-break moment for many startups. Scaling up too quickly or recklessly creates a host of organizational problems that may be hard to undo. Scale too slowly will see them miss out on crucial opportunities that come with more significant revenue and resources. And premature scaling may cause business failure.
Therefore, as you plan how to scale, you need to know the right time to do it and have the strategies required to scale successfully. Keep reading to learn how to scale your business successfully.
Growth vs. Scaling
There is a difference between growth and scaling. Growth refers to a similar increase in company costs and revenue. For example, adding new clients will require more employees to serve them. On the other hand, what characterizes scaling is an exponential growth in revenue without a corresponding increase in spending. In other words, you have maximum profits with minimum investments.
When is the Right Time to Scale Up?
Determining the right time to scale is critical for startups. Below are four signs that your company has hit this milestone:
- You’ve achieved previously set goals, which means it is time to re-evaluate and scale-up.
- You have a steady cash flow. Exponential growth requires financial investments, and at this point, it is not enough that your company is profitable; instead, you need to analyze your revenue carefully. Further, your ability to predict profits and control costs is vital, and you must prove to investors that there are no risks for failure.
- You have efficient working IT systems. The process of scaling up requires you to collect, store, and analyze more information. Therefore, your IT systems should be able to handle the strain.
- You have a good team. Employees are the foundation of any startup. Look closely at your team. Do they bring innovative ideas to the table? Can they tackle new tasks? If new tasks present exciting challenges to your team with a corresponding increase in productivity and creative ideas, then you are ready to scale.
How to Scale: Strategies for Startups and Small Businesses
Now that you have identified the right moment to start scaling your startup, you need to have the right strategies and tips for doing it successfully.
1. Identify Your Core Competencies
You must identify your core products, customers, and marketing strategies before trying to scale your startup. In its 2011 study on why startups fail, The Startup Genome found that 74% of its sample size of 3,200 startups failed because they scaled up too quickly. Therefore, ensure that you have covered the following basics:
- You have a minimum viable product that has achieved a product-market fit. Product iterations based on user data and feedback can help you make gradual improvements.
- You know your core users.
- You know which marketing channels have the most significant scaling potential and ROI.
- You have the resources to scale.
2. Automate or Outsource as Much as You Can
If your startup has many labor-intensive aspects, you will not scale effectively. It would be best if you started streamlining every process you can, which includes automating billing and payroll, creating training videos to bring new employees up to speed quickly, automating the marketing of your business, and so on.
Outsource where you cannot automate. Ensure that the majority of your resources go into making and supporting your core competencies. Thus, only the critical roles should stay in-house. Outsource things like design, copywriting, legal issues, and cleaning services. You can eventually bring back these ancillary roles once you are comfortable at scale.
3. Boost Your Marketing
You cannot scale up your startup if no one knows about it. When you focus on marketing, scalability will follow. However, not all forms of marketing are scalable. For instance, word-of-mouth and direct marketing do not scale.
Therefore one of the solutions for how to scale your business is focusing on the right marketing strategies. Two suitable examples include:
- Content Marketing: It has evergreen value as well as viral potential, which makes it a growth-hack strategy of choice for most startups.
- Social Media Marketing: Most new startups are in the public eye, which is great for exposure, but only if you manage it well and use social media as a marketing tool. As a fledgling startup, you cannot afford to take any significant PR hits. You want your business to go viral but in a positive light.
4. Hire the Right People
Business is scalable with the right team in place. Thus, you need to hire only the right people who are necessary to the operation. Look out for the following characteristics of a suitable team member:
- They can do tasks that a program cannot. Automate everything you can to maximize the output of your remaining lean team members.
- They have good ideas.
- They have several skills. Sometimes, startups require one person to do three or more jobs. Therefore, hiring employees with multifaceted skill sets, or skills that are easily transferable between tasks, is essential.
5. Ensure Your Business Models Can Work without You
Your startup is not all about you. To truly scale up, your business must function just fine without you. You can do this by deliberately shifting responsibilities off your shoulders or delegating critical tasks. You can also take deliberate absences to force the startup and your personnel to become independent. It is essential to prove to investors that the business is not tied to your presence or existence.
Over to You
Startups and small businesses must continually create an environment that looks for ways to grow and embraces continuous improvement. Inefficient and poorly run processes are some of the biggest things that hold most businesses back from scaling.
Additionally, even with the best blueprint and systems in place, it is still pertinent to have the guidance and advice of experts in the field or just someone that has been in your shoes.
If you are looking at how to scale your business from a startup to a fast-growing company, Ascent has got you covered. It organizes events and conferences for B2B and SaaS leaders with talks from some of the top minds and executives in the industry. Register now for the next virtual event.