GUEST BLOG by Penny Lord: Scaling Up an Innovative Business and the People Challenge

GUEST BLOG by Penny Lord: Scaling Up an Innovative Business and the People Challenge

 

Deciding to scale up your business is exciting. I think a lot can be achieved and it is critical to have the right people in the right places – if you crack this a lot of obstacles can be overcome. Leadership: Fundamental to scaling is the right leadership. It is incredibly hard to look at […]

Deciding to scale up your business is exciting. I think a lot can be achieved and it is critical to have the right people in the right places – if you crack this a lot of obstacles can be overcome.

Leadership: Fundamental to scaling is the right leadership. It is incredibly hard to look at yourself as a leader and honestly decide what you can and can’t do well (or even can’t really do at all). You need to know your strengths and weaknesses and then once you do, have a plan to cover off the weaknesses by recruiting the right people. We all know of the techies who develop a brilliant product – can they bring it to market and run their business? – quite often the answer is no! If you can’t understand the finances – find someone that can and that you can work with so you can fully understand what is happening in your business.

Team: As the business leader, you need to choose the right team – Non-Executives, mentors and staff. Remember you are not just recruiting for today, but you need people that have a good range of skills and who can and will grow with the business. I say choose – a lot of businesses simply accept the help of people who come along easily without really thinking about what they will need further down the line. If you start off with a compromise it will often become a big problem later when the business has outgrown their ability and you need to make changes to keep growing.

Think about the long-term need of the business, your relationship with your Team, then carefully consider how recruits will work with the company and culture going forward. The management team needs to be able to focus on the key things needed to make the business grow and make them happen. I have seen a lot of businesses where the limiting factor is the management – don’t let that be yours.

What works for a company of 50 may well fall apart when you reach 100 and your leadership team needs to be able to adapt and have a ‘can do’ attitude. I also think you need to look carefully at what functions / accountability your team should have to ensure that the work is distributed – only one person should be accountable (say for marketing or finance) – this makes sure that one person ultimately takes ownership – although more than one person may be working within the arena.

It may be helpful to have a Function Accountability chart for the business that covers what must happen, the jobs to be done. (Not the Titles of the jobs). You may have a couple of extra jobs – quality control / technical officer / risk manager – you can add them to the tool – It is a simple tool that focusses on making sure you have the main challenges covered with the right people.

There are many different ones, but this is a good starter. To complete it you need to think about the 1 or 2 key performance indicators (KPI’s) for each function. They need to be realistic and measurable to make sure the business stays on the right track whilst scaling.

When you have completed the boxes as the leader ask yourself:

Are you still enthusiastic and happy with all the people you have named in the boxes?
Are they getting the job done?
Are they still a good fit with the business, with the culture?
Can they continue to grow with the business?

This is often a difficult moment. You have ‘grown up’ with them in the business and they are often friends but they may not be the right fit going forward. You need the crucial conversations with them to work out the way forward with them.

As the business growth continues, you will need to continue to promote and recruit new leaders – make sure that the people you recruit fit with your culture. They should be people who are self-starters and don’t need to be managed. They should be the type of person who regularly makes you stop to consider their insights and output – they can add great value to your business.

Subcontractors: Again think about these carefully and be sure that they are the people you want on your journey with you. It may be that you use them with a view to taking them into the business once you are able. Think about how you can tie them in – what happens if they take the idea / your clients and decide to service them without you? What can you offer to tie them in?

About Penny Lord 
Penny Lord is an experienced business adviser and coach based at St John’s Innovation Centre delivering Enterprise Europe Network services across the East of England. If you need some support and are an innovative company looking to grow and internationalise, there may be some support available to you which is funded by the European Union and Innovate UK. Penny and other consultants in the team specialise in strategic & financial planning, raising funding, working with businesses to develop executive summaries and pitches and the other challenges you are likely to face.

To find out more, please feel free to contact the author at plord@stjohns.co.uk