Last updated: October 23 2018

Scaling a Business to New Heights: Are You Up to the Challenge?

If you are in business today, building on what you have accomplished so far can be very exciting. Yet it can also be intimidating, especially if the necessary steps have not been fully thought out and properly planned for, and if you are keenly aware that in the absence of growth comes the peril of mismanaging the equity you have built so far.

“Scaling up” to the next growth phase for your business is a deliberate process and understanding when to plan to do so is key to getting the greatest value out of your business, should you intend, or be approached, to sell down the line.

Today, many start-ups pre-plan for growth by deciding in advance when they will move to the next level and setting specific timeframes and targets to do so. Others who have been in business for some time dream of growing even bigger, but recognize that this will take an investment of time, energy and money.

Importantly, the leadership skills you used to grow your business to its current size can be quite different from the ones you will require to grow it to the next level, and ultimately to a successful succession. Knowing what it takes to lead a growing company, and developing those leadership skills, can, in fact, be the determining factor between success and failure.

If you consider any successful, reputable business today, you will likely think about who has led the company so far. You might even admire the qualities of that leader and try to emulate them in your own business. What it takes to inspire, motivate and lead a team through growth is not a pure science; however, there are many aspects of sound leadership that can be developed and learned to achieve the desired results.

One of your first responsibilities in developing your leadership skills during a scaling-up period is to look at your own values, attributes and behaviors, to ensure they reflect the company and brand so far and, more importantly, what you hope it will become in the future. Assessing your own capabilities to take it to the next level will help you understand and master the behavioral and emotional issues that will arise as your business grows.

If you find yourself still serving clients directly, dealing with staff issues yourself without the support of middle managers, and not finding enough hours in the day to plan and strategize for the future of the company, you are still very much IN the business and you will have difficulties scaling up. Getting to that next level of working ON the business will happen in stages, as you develop the confidence in your people to delegate key clients to team leads, and allow your designated and trusted employees to solve basic problems that occur day to day. It is a “push-pull” process that can happen subtly at first, but needs to become much more deliberate as you scale up for growth.

You will be the one to drive the vision for your company’s new growth, to develop the strategic alliances you need in a multi-stakeholder world, and to promote your competitive advantage through your marketing programs. Your success will also be determined by how well you succeed at building and empowering a network of talented people and alliances to build on that vision and make it a reality.

Bottom line: Your team members will not “buy in” to your growth plan if they do not have the confidence that you can lead them through the steps necessary to get the company there. You may have to take a hard look at the traits, principles and tactics that you will need to push for increased productivity and profitability.

Your leadership challenge: Can you “let go” enough to work ON your business rather than IN your business?

Excerpted from the MFA – Executive Business Growth Designation program course: Business Leadership, Culture and Continuity.

Additional educational resources: Join us for the first annual Business Builder Retreat in Quebec City, where business leaders will help you answer important questions and empower you to develop your business, and yourself, successfully.


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