The biggest obstacle to scaling a business is often the entrepreneurs themselves, says Harry Welby-Cooke, Southern African Co-Master Licensee of ActionCOACH. “Start-ups are fast-moving, dynamic and chaotic,” he says.

“That chaos can be a drug. You need to remove the chaos to scale, and so for entrepreneurs, the biggest challenge is often learning to let go.”

Entrepreneurs’ identities may be tied to what they do – whether they’re chefs or software developers – but to scale their businesses, they need to move into business-owner mind-set, Welby-Cooke says.

Stacey Brewer, CEO and co-founder of SPARK Schools, says: “There’s no more winging it. You have to evolve from having control over every area of the business, to implementing policies and procedures, hiring people and letting them make mistakes.”

SPARK Schools has doubled the network of families it’s serving every year since launching in 2013. This year, it has 11 schools serving 4 000 families, 400 staff members, and plans to expand to 20 schools by 2019.

Brewer believes before scaling a business, entrepreneurs must scale themselves. “Your company can quickly outgrow you. Personal development is critical. You need to remain a step ahead and continue offering value to the business or risk becoming irrelevant.”

She admits that the business growth process can be lonely and advises developing a strong support system. Her own includes a CEO coach, life coach, entrepreneur group and various mentors, who act as an informal advisory board.

 SCALING YOUR TEAM

“When you hire people, get out of their way and let them do what you hired them to do,” Welby-Cooke advises, explaining that many entrepreneurs build teams, but “double up” on the work being done, instead of handing over responsibility.

It’s also important for business owners to up-skill when it comes to people management. “Get good at it. You need to serve the people who work for you so they can serve your clients, who serve your business, which will then serve you,” says Welby-Cooke.

“Hire people who are aligned to the vision and mission of your organisation,” Brewer stresses. “Trust your gut. My biggest business regrets all relate to people – hiring people I knew weren’t right for the job, but not trusting my instinct when it came to making decisions.”

She says choosing the right partners and investors is just as important as the wrong investors can steer you off course.

THINGS TO THINK ABOUT BEFORE SCALING UP

  • “Have a reason to scale. Be prepared to do the hard work and understand that scaling will bring new problems,” says Welby-Cooke. “At ActionCOACH, we advise systemising the routine and humanising the exception. Map out every process – who does what, when and how. Put structures in place to guarantee consistency.”
  • “Understand that in a rapidly scaling company, every year is like having a new business,” says Brewer. “Change is hard, so make sure you hire gritty people – people who will take calculated risks – and focus on change management.”
  • “To scale, you need to stop saying ‘yes’ to everything,” says Welby-Cooke. “Get good at saying ‘no’. To grow, you need to focus on business priorities and be far more selective about what you take on.”
  • Don’t wait until you achieve perfection, Brewer advises. “Decide on your minimum viable product, and go! Mistakes are part of the journey.”

This article first appeared on the August issue of DESTINY MAN