Successful Start Up, now what?

Exploring aspects of conversation, both personal and professional

So, you’ve successfully passed through the Start Up phase, where to from here?

Transitioning your business from a Start Up to one that is focussed on growth or Scaling Up is a fundamental change to the way you’ve done business before. What got you to where you are today, is not, unfortunately, going to get you to the next stage!

You may also find that the people who got you to where you are today are not the right ones to take the company forward. You’ve got some hard questions to ask and you’ll need to move from what may have been a ‘chaotic’ very fluid style of business to one which has more structure and governance whilst continuing to be agile.

The Lifecycle of Companies

The sequence that businesses will move along is an s-shaped curve of growth from Start Up to Scale Up and if not you’re not careful to Screw Up! However, of the millions of people who start a new business around the world, 96% of them will stay as “mice” (or Start Ups). It’s only a few who are able to Scale Up and become “gazelles” who exceed the $10M, $100M or $1B in revenue mark.

In Verne Harnish’s book Scaling Up, Mastering the Rockefeller Habits 2.0 he provides the practical tools and techniques for Scaling Up a business and demonstrates how a few companies make it and why the rest don’t. Here are some excerpts, really a list of lists, from Verne’s book that will give you a good summary of what to expect. It also forms the basis of how we work with our clients when helping you to Scale Up.

the Key Decisions


The key to scaling the S-shaped curve of growth lies in how you apply yourself to the four key decision areas of your business:


The Four Decisions

Each decision area is anchored by an overarching Key Question and accompanied by simple, practical, and actionable Growth Tools which will help you and your team focus on the specific questions which will drive growth and performance. It is about; attracting and keeping great people, creating a truly differentiated strategy, driven by flawless execution, whilst having plenty of cash to weather the storms.

The Scaling Up Growth Tools and techniques focus on three deliverables:

  • An 80% reduction in the time it takes the senior team to manage the business (their operational activities)
  • Refocusing the senior team on market-facing activities
  • Realigning everyone else onto the same page to drive execution and results


When the tools and techniques have been successfully implemented, based on experience with over 20,000 companies, there are four main outcomes that organisations achieve: 


  • At least double the rate of cashflow
  • Triple the industry average profitability
  • Increased valuation of the firm relative to competitors
  • Helping stakeholders enjoy the climb (employees, customers, shareholders)
Of course, there are barriers to Scaling Up and we repeatedly see three of them:

– the inability to staff/grow enough leaders throughout the organisation who have the dual capabilities of delegation and prediction

Scalable infrastructure

– the lack of systems and structures to handle the complexities in communications and decisions that come with growth


– the failure to scaleup an effective marketing function capable of attracting new customers, talent, advisors and other key relationships to the business

So what to do?

In order for your team to overcome these barriers you need to master the four fundamentals:

In leading people

– establish a handful of rules, repeat yourself a lot and act consistently with those rules. This is the role and power of Core Values.

In setting strategy

– using Gary Hamel’s definition, you don’t have real strategy if it doesn’t pass two tests:

1. what you’re planning to do really matters to enough customers

2. it differentiates you from your competition

In driving execution

– implement three key habits:

1. set a handful of Priorities

2. gather quantitative and qualitative Data daily and review weekly to guide decisions

3. establish an effective daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual meeting Rhythm to keep everyone in the loop

In managing cash

– don’t run out of it! Pay as much attention to how every decision affects cashflow as you do with revenue and profitability.

Climbing a Mountain

Mountain Climb

In some ways Scaling Up a business is like climbing a mountain. You need to be guided by Core Values, a Purpose and then choose a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG™) to achieve in the next 10 to 25 years.

In order to break up the journey the leadership team sets a series of three to five year targets divided up into annual goals. These are further broken down into specific actionable steps the business takes over the next few weeks or months whilst still being mindful to adjust tactics as the market conditions dictate.

In the end, it’s about keeping everyone focussed on the summit (BHAG™) and then deciding the appropriate next step (Quarterly Priority) while respecting the rules that keep you from being swept off the mountain (Values). Along this journey, there is a set of habits or routines that will make the climb easier.



Routine sets you free


'Routine sets you free' is a key driving principle behind the Scaling Up methodologies and tools. The most successful business leaders have a clear vision and the disciplines/routines to make it a reality.

4D Framework

The Scaling Up framework is based on Albert Einstein’s quote:

‘Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler’.


Scaling up a business is complex and requires robust tools and techniques, but they need to be simple enough to get the job done. 

The 4D Framework


The guiding principle in designing the 4D Framework is:


We have the answers, all the answers; it’s the question we do not know.


We work with smart teams, wickedly smart. With perseverance and grit we know you'll find the answers. However, our concern is that you might be working on the wrong questions. That’s why we spend much of our time working with your leadership teams to help formulate the right questions. Once you get the questions right, the answers tend to appear.





If you are interested in further exploring how to leverage simple, actionable, and practical tools to help you Scale Up why not come along to the Scaling Up Business Growth Workshop we are running in conjunction with our partner SWAAB on Tuesday 4th, December.

Hurry!! At time of going 'to press' there were only two seats left.

More informationGet tickets


Alternatively, if you would just like to learn a little more about Scaling Up - grab yourself a copy of the "Quick Start Guide".



Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make it...and Why the Rest Don't

Verne Harnish

What Matters Now

Gary Hamel




Post a comment

Captcha Image