Matt Leone is the Chief Operating Officer of automotiveMastermind (Mastermind).
Great strategy and execution are the fundamentals of success for any company. These have become the building blocks of my career, as I help businesses scale from software-as-a-service innovators to high-growth and highly profitable companies.
According to SCORE, scaling a business refers to “setting the stage to enable and support growth in the company. It means having the ability to grow without being hampered. It requires planning and the right systems, staff, processes, technology and partners.”
For many leaders, the main goal is maintaining continuous top-line growth. In fact, I’ve found many aspire to have hyper-growth. However, if these hyper-growth companies fail to plan or have the right infrastructure and processes in place, they will eventually collapse under their own weight because they can’t keep up with business growth.
The challenge becomes balancing growth and scale. New processes, policies, projects and initiatives can slow down or halt what made you successful in the first place. The key to scaling successfully is figuring out when to pivot focus and invest resources into infrastructure, systems, tools and back-office functions while not hampering top-line growth.
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For example, as much as I love Excel, it likely won’t work at scale to run your business. Scale becomes critically important to catch up on all the things you didn’t have the budget, time or resources to focus on while in the initial hyper-growth phase.
As leaders reflect on what phase their company is in to determine when is the right time to scale, I want to share some helpful tips I have used in my career. My personal experience has been focused on mid-size SaaS companies, and as a result, I’ve determined three pillars of scaling a company:
Trust that you have established growth momentum. This is your insurance card, as well as an essential first step that’s often overlooked because it doesn’t have any numbers attached to it.
Take a good look at your company and validate you’re in the right place to begin scaling. It’s important that growth has already been established and you have a runway for sustained growth to begin focusing on scale. If you’re running into infrastructure roadblocks that are causing customer frustration, delays in sales cycles, retention problems, workaround solutions or anything hampering growth, you are in the right place to implement systems, tools and processes to sustain and scale your business.
You will likely stumble and make mistakes, but when you trust and believe in the vision and let the momentum carry you forward, you’ll work through those missteps. Scale is not an option; infrastructure must eventually be attended to.
2. Create interlocking teams.
Uniting your teams is another critical component of the scaling process. Scaling requires all departments to be aligned on company goals. The alignment can’t just come from the C-suite.
When we think about getting sign-off on a new initiative, people usually go to three departments: sales and marketing, finance and engineering. But many forget about functions such as customer support, billings and collections, human resources, technical architects and IT teams. I’ve learned you typically need 15 to 20 departments signed off and in agreement on how to scale, not just the obvious three or four.
Put in the work to map out all departments the scaling process will impact, and identify leaders from each department who you’ll communicate with frequently to ensure everyone is rowing in the same direction.
3. Do it fast, but do it well.
Something I’ve experienced when scaling a company is if you’re scaling using a five-year plan, you’re already behind. Things move too quickly to plan five years ahead.
Speed and efficiency are essential to accomplish tasks. Scaling a company means making it operationally efficient. So, while I’m encouraging you to move quickly, you have to balance speed with accuracy.
Make sure you have the right resources in place and the right people on each team so speed is attainable. One successful strategy I’ve used is to pick the obvious and most logical things that you know need to be done and do those first, even if they’re harder. You can be more agile when you knock out the tough items first.
Like we touched on earlier, you could fail when you’re in speed mode, but it’s easier to overcome small challenges because the momentum is already going and your eye is on the prize. This goes back to trust: I believe you won’t fail the macro strategy if it’s black and white and right in front of you.
When it comes down to it, scaling requires reaching an equilibrium. Matching your assets to your goals is what helps you start growing at scale. By first establishing trust in yourself as a leader and your teams, you can align and motivate department leads, move fast and successfully scale your company to new heights.