28/05/2015

By Nathan Ott, CEO of eg.1, business insight and talent consultancy


Every startup has huge aspirations, which will often involve growing the business. But how do you know when it’s the right time to scale? What do you need to do to ensure your growth strategy is a success?

If you’re thinking about growing your business because the demand is there then you are on the right path to success. But if you fail to think about things properly or rush into things without a plan and try to grow too quickly you will be sure to stumble across some hurdles along the way. Ultimately your growth plan will depend on the type of business, resources, and how much money, time and energy you're willing to invest.

In reality there are really only two options when you are looking to scale – you buy a company or you buy people to help you grow in other ways, such as opening in new locations or expanding offerings. Either way there are a few things we need to consider first in order to achieve sustainable growth.

1. Assess your competition

It’s important to assess what your competition are doing and why people buy from them rather than you before you embark on your growth plan. So you need to find out what their strengths are and whether you have these strengths too? If not, why not - and do you need them?

Looking at what the competition is doing will help you form your growth strategy in terms of how you should grow. You then need to look at your growth in respect to what services and what products your business needs to have and then what clients/customers want that the competition aren’t bringing to the marketplace.

2. Define your decision making process

A smooth process requires flexibility and speedy decisions therefore it’s important to understand who is in control. Be very clear from the offset in terms of understanding what you are looking for and where you can flex – decide how you will make decisions so that you are ready when questions come up along the way.

3. Create a plan for your people

To grow successfully, you may need different employees with different skill sets and knowledge or you may need to up-skill your existing employees. People cost money so it’s important to create a sound people plan and take employees on the journey with you being very clear about what’s expected of them.

4. Move quickly

Growing in a growth market means you need to move quickly because you are not only one doing it. Uber and Airbnb are great examples – there are lots of other businesses doing the same but Uber and Airbnb have just done it quicker and slicker than their competition.

So once you have created a sound growth plan you need to move quickly through the process. This can be challenging but it should always be straightforward if you have done your research.

5. Be flexible

You may have the best growth plan in place but it’s important to remain flexible. There are external influencers and things change so you need to be prepared to adapt and pivot – the reality is that things don’t always go to plan.

Just do it...

Running any business is tough but the challenges can increase as you begin to scale up. The issue comes when your growth agenda and ambition to scale gets in the way of running your business properly.

Growing a business requires a huge amount of energy and it’s dangerous to put the breaks on at the first sign of a challenge. In fact your reputation is at risk if you tell everyone you plan to grow and then don’t go through with it. A damaged reputation takes a long time to restore, and could impact not only on the individuals involved but also on the wider business and stakeholders. So, if you are serious about growing then do it.