It's a strange leap for anyone's brain to take, from working in a scaled business to going back to a start-up. But this is the challenge I had in 2018 as I entered start-up the world once again with Vaunt and a soon to launch PropTech business.
It was at this point it dawned on me that once more, that every business has to start somewhere and that's ok. And the rush to establish the next venture is a journey that should be enjoyed. As exciting and frustrating as it is in equal measure. But from idea to research to profit, at some point along the way you will need to move into growth to keep it thriving.
So why not build those vital foundations now?
Getting through the start-up phase offers the chance to test your product, find your market fit and work out the kinks in your business model. But keeping that scale-up mindset always clear is essential, as that with those key validations checks done, you're now are ready to tackle the next exciting stage. Scale.
From humble beginnings
A start-up begins to grow into a scale-up when it has found a working business model that has been proven in practice. The customer base is stable and expanding and responding well to the market viability, performance and differentiators of the product.
The scale-up phase is an exciting time for all involved in the business. The hours of sweat and hard work are finally paying off. You can breathe a sigh of relief as you start to see positive returns - everyone is happy! Including your investors, if you happen to have them.
Now it is time for your next phase.
Before you dive into the process head first, it's worth taking a step back and examining these three essential foundations:
- Leadership - As you scale-up, so will the complexity of your business. Your leadership needs to be strong, not just at leading but also at delegating and hiring. It is essential to have a reliable team around you who share your vision, complement your weaknesses and are not afraid to challenge your decision making.
- Scalable Infrastructure - Here, we are talking about the basic day-to-day running of the business. Invest in that software you have been doing without, upgrade your working environment. Make sure that your employees and customers have access to the tools they need to make your scale-up a success.
- Marketing Effectiveness - If you haven't already, now might be the time to call in the experts. A well thought out, and targeted marketing plan is worth the investment, delivering you high returns. If your business isn't reaching the right audience, your sales can't grow the way you need them to. And you really need to be laser-focused on precisely who your audience is and where to find them.
How to scale-up your business
Now that the foundations of your business are solid- it's time to grow. What does that look like exactly?
Funding might be a critical catalyst for growth. So securing the second round of funding so you can put cash flow into production rather than development. You might need to onboard talent who have a higher level of expertise or offer training to your current team. You might need to look at evolving your management structures and tweaking your processes to ensure timely project delivery and quality control.
The scale-up is a risky time, but it is also exciting, a time full of opportunity. Here are four things you can do to help your scale-up on its path to success:
- Generate a steady revenue system – Revenue is vital. Without a steady revenue stream, you will always be scrambling to replace the customer you lost. Refine your business practices continuously until your customer base is stable. Then you can focus your resources and expand. But as the invoices go out, we need to be managing cash flow too.
- Come up with a tech-stack – A minimum viable tech stack needs to be agreed upon and put in place for a scale-up to function according to its potential. Don't be afraid to leverage off the shelf solutions like Shopify and don't feel like you need to build an ivory tech tower by investing in an expensive bespoke solution.
- Measure your metrics - Examine your marketing funnel and business metrics. This will tell you where your strengths and weaknesses are and where you need to prioritise your attention. Build or buy a channel analysis report, so you know exactly where you're spending your money and precisely what is generating revenue for you.
- Task automation – Let technology take away the mundane work, automate those invoices and simple tasks. This includes some marketing activities too. You need to focus on what is truly important and investing your time on the right work.
Focusing on scale
Wherever you are in your start-up journey, it's worth taking a moment to consider the future. Look at the scalability of your processes and think about what you will need to accelerate your growth.
Have a clear and realistic roadmap that is achievable. No one wins any prizes for setting a plan that you keep failing on. But perhaps add a few stretch goals to keep you on your toes.
Most of all, enjoy the journey. It will take the time it takes, and you will be faced with countless delays and blockers. Your scale-up is just around the corner.