Scaling up a startup is the next step after its successful launch and the first visible growth. It is paradoxical enough that most of the recommendations relate specifically to the launch process and do not consider it necessary to talk a lot on topics of further development: the main task is supposedly completed, the further depends on you. Thinking like that is a massive setback and the first serious mistake made by startup owners inspired by the state of finally being over the hump.
A far cry from optimism is the statistics on the viability of American startups: only 50% of startups survive five years.
Blinding with the first success, ill-conceived management, unpreparedness for sudden problems and, of course, inept and untimely scaling perfectly contribute to the strengthening of these statistics. But since we don’t want to fall into it as another flawed example, why not try to understand the key issues of proper scaling? Armed with knowledge, we will significantly increase our chances of avoiding troubles and major pitfalls of scaling up. It is always nice to be an exception to sad statistics.
We’ll highlight 3 key recommendations that will become your milestones on the road to successful scaling. They are not a guaranteed formula, but they can help to put some clarity into your mind at the moment when you grab your head in your hands and sit in the office after midnight, overcome by obsessive thoughts: “Why did I start all this?”
1. Durability, Sustainability and Responsiveness: Three Pillars of Efficient Infrastructure
Do you remember the black swan of Nassim Taleb? So, welcome to his world: until your business has left the startup category, one should not hope that uncertainty will bypass you or that it can be tamed by a stereotyped business plan and mythical risk management. It is constantly nearby and has long been looking at you predatorily, when you begin to timidly stutter about scaling.
You cannot get rid of it, but you can simulate different scenarios – nobody will stop you from doing this. Pay particular attention to business processes and functions within your enterprise. Remember that during scaling, all departments will get double or triple the load, so all this should be taken into account during planning.
Uncertainty pops up unexpected questions at the most uncomfortable moments: be prepared for this by setting up an impeccable internal communication scheme so that no urgent task is delayed in execution. Optimize routine tasks so they don’t take up valuable time. Automation will help you a lot in this – it is a lifeline for the business of our century.
2. Teamwork Optimization: When Balance Takes Over Stereotypes
Continuing the topic of workflow simplification and automation, let’s turn to the team question. A certain change in the number of employees will be necessary with an increase in enterprise capacity, but do not forget that we are considering this issue through the prism of scaling.
New office workers are not only a burden on the HR and accounting departments, but this is also partial incapacitation of certain key players of the company, who will need to fulfill a mentoring role for some time. And this is at a time when most of your resources should be aimed specifically at scaling tasks. Not to mention the shaping of employment place, network setup and other operating costs, for which there is neither money nor, most importantly, time.
The conclusion is forced upon you: while scaling, it’s not the time to think about classic but hopelessly outdated patterns of all-consuming office work. You have to accept a corresponding shift in mindset that denies the need and omnipotence of an office employee who must be in sight every working day.
A great option is qualified remote employees who clearly know what you want from them, don’t need to adapt, don’t waste anyone’s time and simply bring instant benefits to a scalable enterprise. Another thing is how to find them.
But this problem has long been resolved thanks to outstaffing companies offering off-the-shelf solutions for any companies and their tasks. They provide each company with a ready-to-collaborate odc team tailored to your needs without any organizational constraints.
The hiring process, the provision of the necessary equipment and software as well as other operational nuances become not your problem, but the task of an outstaffing company. Moreover, such companies have a wide pool of candidates, among which the people you need will be found much faster than in the case of your independent search. That is why it is so convenient during scaling.
3. The Hunger Games of Marketing: Take the Risk of Being Known
Well-established infrastructure, flexible business processes, an excellent team and a well-thought-out strategy will not lead to anything if no one knows about it. That is why it is important not to forget about your customers and the ways to attract their attention to your startup that is gaining momentum.
No matter what your opinion on marketing is, varnished tale can’t be round. The marketing team usually has the least amount of say when it comes to scaling, and this can be a fatal mistake. Moreover, not every type of marketing is suitable for the scaling stage, so working with the marketing department should not be turned into the least priority task.
The best option for scaling is content marketing. Disliked by fans of the instant effect, this type of marketing has an amazing long-term effect and unfading value, which attracts customers who are tired of wordy meaningless texts.
Reputation support is a key function of social networks. Even if you don’t have a budget for paid advertising, a stable online presence will greatly help your customers to keep abreast of what is happening in your company.
As for direct or influential marketing, these options are more suitable for the early stages of startup development and are unlikely to be useful during scaling.
Scaling for Success, Not Failure
Since you have decided to scale, you are ready for risks. Because if you are not ready, then it’s high time to think about it. Great opportunities are never granted for free, you have to pay for them with your time, peace and, of course, money. But if everything works out – and we are sure that everything will work out – all your efforts will be more than compensated.