Scaling up your company successfully or growing it from a startup to a scale-up can be a challenge. But no matter its size, location or daily business, a successful scale-up strategy consistently takes into account five key elements: your company profile, automation, prioritising perfection over diversification, getting investment and recruiting the right talent. By setting up strategic partnerships and strategic human resources management, you increase your chances at success. This article dives deeper into these key elements for a successful transformation. In doing so, it can hopefully help you reflect on your startup’s current state and consider what it needs to become the scale-up you want it to be.
1. Ensure your company profile is visible and shines bright
Your company profile should be your lighthouse: a beacon to investors, potential new partners, potential new employees and even your competition. Even before scaling up, invest time and resources to ensure your brand and you – plus any other humans at the helm – are visible. So that your profile becomes synonymous with your authority, publicise your expertise and experience. Back up claims with success stories, case studies and invitations for others to ask you to share your best practices. Communicate in ways that are clear and vivid but also accessible for diverse stakeholders. While your company website and social media accounts can serve as ever-accessible calling cards, also consider networking through strategic partnerships. Enrich yourself by collaborating with professionals in areas where you currently lack investment and learn from them.
2. Automate, automate, automate
When growing your company from startup to scale-up, resources are likely limited. Exploit the finite, if not scarce, time, money and staff you do have by automating as much as you can. Running a startup, you already favour digitisation and new technologies over old-fashioned paper-pushing processes. But remember that technology can also provide ways to make your business more efficient and cost-effective, not to mention elegant and enjoyable. Whether it’s software that expedites your payroll and invoicing or cloud-based solutions that take care of your storage and backup, the more you automate daily operations, the more you can focus on your long-term business goals. The more you focus on your strategy, the more you can envision the future and spend time planning and paving the path to get there.
3. Perfect before you diversify
If your startup is in a competitive market and/or you are your own biggest competitor, your ambitions likely keep you constantly seeking – and perhaps also finding – new, different or better ways to do business. Your drive and curiosity are assets. But diversifying your product or service is a step that is better to take when your company is more mature and has enough stable footing to widen its range. So while transitioning your startup to a scale-up, channel your creative energy into focus. Concentrate on what you already offer and perfect it. If you have 10 feasible ideas for other products or services, let stakeholders get just a peek into your creative reserves. You can start iterating once the market is right, your customer base expands or investors are knocking down your door.
4. Win the hearts and wallets of investors
Lack of funding is a factor that often holds companies back from reaching their next major milestone. Consider, therefore, partnering with an investor who can financially enable your company to scale up. But be ready to give investors what they want: a strong brand, a sound business plan, a viable market, a sense of marketability (AKA traction), a sense of differentiation, belief in the people running the startup and faith that they will get a return on their investment. Even if you are a very modest or new startup, remember that at the end of the day – or at the end of your sales pitch – investors are looking for a single marketable commodity. So sell only what you are good at, no matter who your potential investors are or what you think they want to buy.
5. Recruit and retain the right talent
Entrepreneurs and startup stars usually excel at multitasking and like working overtime. These habits may have served you and your company well in its initial phases, but as you scale up, prioritise the strategic management of human resources. Recruiting – and retaining – the right talent is often a company’s greatest monthly cost. It also requires additional investments of time, money and, though it often goes unsaid, emotional energy. Yet, having the right people with the right skills at the right time for your company is crucial. Aside from carefully selecting staff with fit-for-purpose knowledge and skills, ensure your future employees personify the culture of your organisation and can also grow and evolve as it scales up.
Learn more about startups, scale-ups and ways to transition your company on the StartupAmsterdam homepage. For more information on these subjects and links to events, jobs, resources and more, explore the site.