Scaling up a business is different to starting one and requires different people as well as people skills.

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Building the right team and accessing the right skills can be significant challenges for scale-up enterprises.

By Dave Hickey F.C.A.

Over the past few weeks we have looked at the typical challenges facing scaling businesses and considered some tips to deal with them. Here we look at some tips about leading and growing your team through this process.

Who got you here, may not be the best to get you there

Startups bring together a highly-aligned group of people, often friends or relatives. More than passionate, they are emotionally, personally and even financially invested in the business. They’ve come together around a dream and work 24/7 to create something they believe in.

However, those skills and, more importantly aptitudes, may not be suitable for scaling businesses where there is a greater need for simplification (it can be innovative simplification) and developing processes rather than building new ‘stuff’.

Scale-ups, on the other hand, need to simplify their offerings so that they can reach a wider customer base without incurring the costs needed for endless adaptation.

Perfect your processes

Scaling a business doesn’t just involve growing upward and outward, it also means ensuring that your internal processes and operations function at peak performance. The last thing you want is to start losing customers you’ve worked so hard to acquire because some part of your infrastructure is weak.

While perfecting processes, keep in mind that some of the systems and processes that work when your company is in its early stages won’t work on a massive scale. This is where adaptability and flexibility come in, as you may need to adjust processes as you grow.

Establishing a framework of what works and keeps your business running smoothly in the early years is key to scaling a business as it forms a solid core.

Build a great team of employees

As you scale and grow your business, you’re likely to need to more staff. Your relationship with them might not be as close as with previous team members, but everyone must realise the importance of your business values. Consistency and quality are paramount.

Create the right culture and an environment where people want to be, where they share the start-up’s values, and then allow them to grow. By having a solid team, scaling becomes much more attainable as you can put your trust in those around you.

When recruiting always take the utmost care, and only take on new people when it’s clear you will struggle without them.

Access outside expertise when required

Recruiting might not always be the answer. Often it can be better to outsource tasks and functions to ensure the best outcomes. Also realise when you need to delegate responsibility.

Free up your time so you don’t get caught up in day-to-day matters, when your time could be devoted to growing your business. Stay focussed on the ‘big picture’. Operate at your pay grade and ask yourself truthfully if you have what it takes to grow the business as a leader.

Consistency is key

While the development of the necessary processes and structures to ensure scaled growth can be difficult, it is often the social-systems aspect of this phase that proves most difficult for leaders.

When leading a company through the scale-up phase, your job is to impose restrictions. You can no longer have half a dozen different platforms for communication. People can’t be paid inconsistently. Culture and norms must become standardized throughout the company.

You cannot scale effectively without rules in place, but imposing rules on a company that has previously thrived on the freedom of the startup phase is a major threat to the status quo of the existing culture. As a result, there is almost always pushback and resentful feelings from company veterans.

This resentment is usually accompanied by a mismatch of skills from one phase to the next. The people who were a good match for the company when it was a startup are often not the best people to be working for the company when it begins scaling up. This mismatch requires a lot of social adjustment. The longer the company has been in the startup phase, the more difficult that adjustment can be..


DHKN’s Corporate Finance and Advisory teams work with business at all stages of development and we have helped many through those difficult scaling years to become successful sustainable enterprise fulfilling the visions of their founders.

For an informal discussion with our experts about how we can help your business match your ambition, contact me at

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