A successful startup will eventually reach a point when they will be faced with the choice of to scale, or not to scale. The very fact that you are at a stage where you are considering scaling up is in itself an acknowledgment of your success and a compliment to your business acumen. But the road ahead, depending on how far you want to go, could be long and winding.
Despite being the natural next step for a small business, scaling up is fraught with all types of challenges. In a way it feels similar to going back to the drawing board around the time of conception of your business idea. You have to do everything all over again, and whatever sense of security you may have gained between then and now, is once again replaced with anxiety and restlessness.
While it is a scary and exciting time, there are things you can do to make this progression as smooth as possible. Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can successfully scale up your startup.
- Have a strong customer base ready
This would sound like a natural starting point, but I think it’s important enough to warrant inclusion here, since premature scaling can sound the death knell of your company. Don’t even think of expanding unless you have a customer base to justify it. There are two main aspects to successful scaling – you have to be ready for it, and you need a customer base that is also ready for it.
- Have a solid support system in place
The devil is in the details, and it is this devil that you need to keep happy. The more details you factor in during the planning stage of your scale-up ambitions, the better you will be served later on. You need to account for each and every aspect of your enlarged company. You will need more staff, more equipment, more investment, in short, you will run substantially higher operation costs. That is dangerous territory. By when do you expect to start earning profits with your scale-up? For how long can you keep up with the negative cash flow? How will you take care of the costs in the interim?
- Devise an innovative and aggressive sales strategy before you scale up
Recruit the best salespeople that you can. They may not come cheap, but they will be a good investment. The success of your company is contingent on the business you can find; don’t cut corners in this respect.
- Make allowances for financial goof-ups and everything else that you can
Things (and people) have the habit of letting you down when you count on them the most. And that is one thing you can count on happening. Don’t depend on any single thing to be your ticket to a bigger, more profitable company. Have a plan for everything that can go wrong — best salespersons not delivering, your business partner wanting out, missed payments by clients that throw your cash flow for the quarter off track, etc.
- Pilot-test your new target audience
Things may look very promising on paper, but reality can be a whole different ballgame. Don’t jump into the water without testing it first. Only proceed when you get positive results from pilot testing. Otherwise, go back to your drawing board.
- Focus on your core competencies
If you have been thinking of launching a new service or product, put it on hold till you have scaled up to your satisfaction. Focus on your core offering, and stick to it. This is not the time to spread yourself thin.
- Get into partnerships
Consider tie-ups with established companies to leverage their clout in the market. The biggest advantage of this is that you will have access to their customers. You may have to split the profits though, but this is definitely a safer option than going it alone.
These are just some of the pointers to a smoother scaling up. As things stand, there are no set templates for scaling up; every business devises its own unique process, depending on their market, their ambition, their challenges, and above all, on trial and error. Remember, this is a long-term commitment, and you are going to have to be relentless for it to be a success.
About Author: Andrew Cravenho is the CEO of CBAC LLC & Factor Auction. As a serial entrepreneur, Andrew focuses on helping both small and medium sized businesses take control of their cash flow. Prior to CBAC, Andrew founded an annuity financing company relieving tort victims of financial hardship.