Scaling: How to Slay the Entrepreneurial Dragon

If you’re reading this, then you probably know the feeling - You’ve reached a certain point in your company’s growth where everything is looking good: you have the right people, the right product, and everyone is happy. Then, you realize that this comfort isn’t going to last forever. Scaling up is a scary step, because it’s easy to be too ambitious and undermine the progress you’ve already made.

As the founder of your company, you are responsible for the vision, management, and structure of the business—not the day to day work that keeps the company running. With this in mind, how do you scale and not fail? Don’t worry—we’ve pulled together the essentials of successfully scaling your business.

The 4 S’s of scaling

How do you start scaling? Every product or service will have its own process, but the basics of scaling a business largely stay the same. When planning your first steps, consider these four basic “S’s” of scaling to help you get started:

simplify

The more complex your scaling process is, the more likely it is to fail. Focus on your mission: your ultimate goals for the organization, and concentrate your energy on how to scale up around that mission. Simplification also means finding ways to make your business leaner and more efficient—saving time, money, and resources. Implement strategies that will be easy to update later on to avoid headaches and disorganization.

strategize

What’s the overall plan for your scaling efforts? Planning a strategy is important, but you don’t want it to be too complicated. Zach Cutler of Cutler PR sums up how simple the overall strategy should be: “Create a one-page strategic plan… Everything the business needs to succeed should fit on one piece of paper.”

The strategic plan should include specific goals for each quarter and year, the company’s values and mission, and the strengths and weaknesses you have to work with.

systemize

Scaling your business will rely on successful systems. Systems require repeatable processes that will allow your team to implement your strategic initiatives. What can you delegate, and how? Once you’ve determined what your team can do, you can build the system that will allow them to follow procedures autonomously. Test the automation systems extensively before rolling them out to the team as a whole—they will take quite a bit of refinement before they truly become repeatable and consistent.

solutions

There will be challenges that come up while you’re scaling your business. Don’t let yourself focus on the negativity—focus on creating solutions and improving your business through the learning experience that challenges present. Your team can help you brainstorm solutions to your problems, engaging them in the process and helping everyone understand the importance of overcoming obstacles. Inaction is fatal to scaling—face challenges head on and move on.

Essential roles in the scaling process

Your team will be essential in the scaling process so you’ll want to consider appointing some people to special roles throughout the task. Being a successful leader during the scaling process means leaving much of the work to those you trust, and focusing on the bigger picture. Fast Company recommends forming the following roles for scaling up successfully:

1. “steering” group

The Steering Group is made up of individuals who are not involved with the day-to-day work of running the company (such as board members). This group will guide the big picture and help shape the strategy of the scaling process on an ongoing basis.

2. collaborative leadership team

These team members are your senior staff who collaborate well. They will organize the scaling efforts on the ground, orchestrating practical implementation within the organization and putting the scaling plan into action. These managers will discuss ways to approach challenges that arise and ensure initiatives get carried out.

3. chief information office/chief knowledge officer

This team member should be an executive who has strategic leadership skills and can facilitate knowledge sharing and utilize technology to help the business scale.

Aside from these roles, everyone in the company should be a part of the scaling process. Keeping your workforce engaged and invested in major changes is key to successful scaling. Empower your employees to be part of the process, and encourage creative solutions to problems that come up.

Stay lean

Though it might be tempting to fall into the trap of spending a lot of money during the scaling process, it’s easy for spending to get out of hand. Any spending you do should contribute toward your mission and goals. Wise spending will help you weather any tough times that may come up. Frugal companies tend to be much more successful in the long run than organizations that spend on lavish extras. Calculated risks and shrewd money management will serve you well while slaying the entrepreneurial dragon.

By Ryan Ayers

About the author

Ryan Ayers has consulted a number of companies within multiple industries including information technology and big data. After earning his MBA in 2010, Ayers also began working with start-up companies and aspiring entrepreneurs, with a keen focus on data collection and analysis.

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