Every start-up in the world wants to grow. They want to break into their industry and rise to the top, gaining visibility and customers as they go.
But during the ascent, there’s the very real danger that you’ll lose your vision in the process. Why? Because scaling a business isn’t easy. It requires a lot of know-how and a whole load of systems and processes that allow for growth and increase.
According to Entrepreneur, the business definition of the term scalability is “the ability to increase revenues while your marginal costs decrease with each unit sale.”
This makes scalability a unique and much sought-after challenge for every single start up. And what makes it better? When a start-up can keep their core value system in tact while they rise to the top.
The difficult part is that growth and scale does not have a one-size-fits-all strategy. There is no blueprint to get to the top, especially in this new age of diverse start-ups that put personality at their core in order to stand out in a sea of other start-ups.
- So, how can you continue to stand out and grow at the same time?
- How can you remain true to the ideals of your business while allowing for that much-coveted growth?
How to Scale Without Losing Your Charm
1. Focus on Growing RIGHT
So many start-ups want to grow and they want to grow immediately. It’s all about overnight success and they’re obsessed with how they can increase their revenue as quickly as possible.
The result? They often sell themselves out in order to grow. They choose profits over personality and leave the reason they started their business in the first place by the wayside.
The issue with growing quickly is that most start-ups don’t have sufficient systems in place. As in, the small-time processes of a new start-up aren’t capable of scaling that fast and, most of the time, the products aren’t ready for a larger audience.
Make it work for you:
Growing quickly might give you a cheap thrill, but growing in the right way will give you the longevity and authority you need to sustain your business in an ever-changing landscape.
Look for areas you can expand into slowly, that reach your target customer, and that won’t force you to sell your soul to the devil along the way.
We only have to look at Starbucks to see the idea of growing quickly instead of right in action. Back in 2007, Howard Schultz, the CEO of the brand talked about the “watering down of the Starbucks experience” as the business expanded to a whopping 13,000 stores worldwide.
They were focused on efficiency and standardizing their practices across the board to create a uniform experience in every store. The result? They quick growth started damaging the brand, and customers instead started going to independent stores to boycott the chain.
- Assess what’s working and what’s not
During a period of growth, it’s essential that you are measuring the tactics you are using to see what’s working and what’s not. Tap into statistics and data to find out how and why your profits are on the rise, and how you can replicate that in a sustainable way – remember, most get-rich-quick methods aren’t made for the long-term, and start-ups that employ them tend to see a plateau or a decrease in profits over a long period of time.
2. Pare Back Before You Add
Growing your start-up in a way that maintains your beginner charm is all about knowing who you are and want you stand for. Ask yourself these questions:
- Do I really know the mission statement of my business?
- Do I really know what my vision is?
- Do I really know who exactly it is that I’m serving?
Scaling is all about expanding out from your central core beliefs, and in order to do so, it’s vital that you know the very basics of your business.
Make it work for you:
Before you even consider scaling into certain areas, pare your business plan right back to the very basics. Consider what it is that you stand for and why your business is different from the rest.
Knowing the goals and beliefs of your start-up inside out is the key to expanding into relevant industries and thriving in the long-term.
Businesses that don’t know who they are or who gloss over their core beliefs in the initial growth stages are the ones who forget who they are and who they serve over time. They adapt to the market instead of their customers’ needs which, in turn, means they don’t appeal to anyone in particular.
The story of IDEO, a design an innovation consulting firm founded by David Kelley is a prime example of a brand that pared back in order to move forward.
When Kelley started to feel the brand was getting too big, he created a selection of “studios” in the Bay Area, anointing each one with its own leader who could choose their own focus. “Calling is a ‘studio’ didn’t make it feel like you were in a department,” Kelley said, going on to add that it pointed towards a sort of equal participation instead of a hierarchy.
3. Watch Your Mindset
Every start-up owner knows that mindset is hugely important when it comes to starting a business and growing it over time.
Your mindset goes hand in hand with your core beliefs – it determines what makes you different from your competitors and what makes your business unique.
To grow in a way that doesn’t ditch your charm, this mindset needs to be at the center of everything you do – from business outreach to sales strategies and everything in between.
It will guide the areas where you can expand, allowing you to determine which markets your start-up will excel in and which markets are best to avoid.
Make it work for you:
Before you make any hasty moves to expand and scale your start-up, take it back to your mindset and your business beliefs.
Before you consider taking on a new client or partnering up with another brand, go back to your beliefs and really consider if it will be a good fit for both your business and your target customers.
4. Keep Your Community
Community is at the core of every business in this day and age. In a time where consumers are more active than they have ever been, creating a loyal fan base around your brand is the key to growing in a sustainable and profitable way.
Your community acts as the exterior driving force behind your business and, by focusing on them and continuing to serve them while you scale, you’ll keep your charm and the reason why they love you in tact.
Make it work for you:
Everything you do must serve your community, whether it’s your customers, clients, or investors. These are the people that keep your business afloat, and they’re the ones who will champion it in the future.
Create a strategy that answers your community’s problems, and be sure to check in with them at every stage of the growth process.
Ask for their feedback, encourage them to get involved, and be open, honest, and authentic with them at all times.
5. Understand What You’re Expanding Into
It’s all well and good scaling your start-up, but if you don’t know what you’re expanding into, you’re putting yourself at a severe disadvantage.
Different industries and different markets have different selling points and different interests, and it’s well worth knowing these before you dive headfirst in to scaling your start-up.
Make it work for you:
It’s all about research. Study your top competitors, and study the statistics and data from other brands in your industry.
Use data to find out what has been successful for these brands and what hasn’t been so effective, and try and create a growth strategy that takes this into account.
When you start undertaking this research, you might find that the market you thought you wanted to expand into isn’t the right fit for you – and it’s much better to know that at the beginning than when you’re knee deep in it with no way out.
For the majority of start-ups, growth is the number one thing on their mind. Businesses want to reach as many people as possible and get their name out there amongst the big guns in their industries.
But to do this, they need to be strategic with their growth in order to remain a unique part of their market that has a long and sustainable life span. To recap, you can be intentional with your growth by:
- Focusing on growing right and knowing who exactly it is you want to serve
- Paring back before you move forward so you have a solid understanding of who you are and where you want to go
- Watching your mindset and letting this drive everything you do
- Keeping your community around you to champion your growth
- Understanding what exactly it is you’re expanding into by researching and analyzing your competitors and the market
Scaling a start-up is an exciting prospect, and it’s even better when you can keep your beginner’s charm in tact.