Scale Up! Following on from Boost’s leadership and risk management sessions, for the lucky Boost businesses it’s ‘scale up’!
Mentor and business growth consultant Aisha Ejaz came in to tell us about her experience facilitating scale-up thinking and provide planning tips and pitfalls for scaling up entrepreneurial businesses.
But first we had a few more 1-minute pitches!
Best in this session was Joseph, founder of Vestipos a great iPad point of sale system……
…..who had clearly been practising under the watchful eye of Boost mentor Alex - Rock on Joseph!
Back to scale up!
Scale-up thinking. What is a scale-up business? One with 3 consecutive years increase in turnover and or size (employees).
When a business gets stagnant or you think your just growing smoothly it’s time to consider a scale up!
In sum, Scale-up thinking is a change in mindset - it needs many of the skills we’ve already covered and a few more. Most important, it need enthusiastic and engaging leadership!
The key message was when scale-up conditions are met, it is the time to break away from ‘Business as Usual’ and start some Agile thinking.As we covered in leadership, it’s largely about determining the optimum time for taking the next leap beyond organic growth and getting additional investment for the next big step.
Time to break away from Business as Usual and start some Agile thinking.
What’s Agile thinking? - You guessed it, it is a trendy ‘new’ term for the thought processes used in creatives/software programme management practice and software development called Agile. It involves thinking (often called scrums) to define outcomes and outputs in a more collaborative way by engaging all the disciplines in your business.
It captures lessons, risks and corrections in a horizon aware and problem-solving way thus enables priorities to be set, activity understood and delivery efficiency.
It’s always best to start with a review of external and internal threats - but remember that while it’s your job to horizon scan the external you may well be blind, or blinkered, to internal issues unless you listen to your staff - really listen. This is where agile processes work well and can lever any number of analysis models - SWOT, Porters 5 Forces or whatever works for you or your business.
Did you have and do you use a business plan to start-up and frequently review it? If you do then you will know when to scale-up, if not, you should review your business plan frequently, its a living document not a library shelf filler!
Always start with Barriers to growth - perhaps a quiet ‘leaders huddle’ on the vision or outcomes facilitated by some old-fashioned PEST thinking.
Such a session also gets buy in from senior execs or managers and allows;
1. Sharing of thoughts before looking at the external barriers to your vision.
2. Reinforces the horizon scanning, problem solving and personnel aspects in Leadership.
3. Identifies the ‘nay-sayers’ in the top levels which can undermine the collective/your plan.
Once the barriers and wider context is captured, switch to more business market-based thinking then, when all appears done into internal delivery. Then, check the delivery against some risk ideas like, what if the supplier fails me? What if it takes twice as long? etc and test your solutions for common sense.
THEN, JUST GET ON WITH IT!
While doing it, don’t lose sight of what makes your business run and it’s not you. Remember to:
- Look after your customers then,
- your people and then,
- your stakeholders then,
- your business future.
Without your customers, your suppliers and your people along with you have no future - communicate!
Did Aisha cover or explain what Agile Thinking is? Pretty much, because it’s a state of mind and too complex to cover in the time available. Also, it does mean different things to different people and in different contexts.
What about all the other change techniques?
Agile thinking embraces all the previously trendy, in their time, buzz methods like ‘continuous improvement’ or brainstorming etc to change from business as usual to a ‘new’ vision or step change pace for the business - where you are to where want to be for maximum impact or success. Essentially it identifies and forms the bedrock of agile planning, flexible delivery, transformational leadership etc
When you’re actually in charge, all ‘management change’ models revolve around the same axis - though consultants and academics may disagree. Here’s an example:
Yukl (1994) offers some practical tips for leaders wanting to develop a strong base for their transformational leadership journey:
1. Develop a challenging and attractive vision, together with the employees
2. Tie the vision to a strategy for its achievement
3. Develop the vision, specify and translate it to actions
4. Express confidence, decisiveness and optimism about the vision and its implementation
5. Realize the vision through small planned steps and small successes in the path for its full implementation
It may also sound a bit like buzz-word bingo! But note, the key elements are the same - it’s about people, vision, communication a decent plan and some enthusiastic but not dogmatic leadership from YOU!
There are loads of free relevant resources out there to help and you don’t necessarily need to hire an expensive management consultant but, a good facilitator or mediator can save time, reduce stress and protect relationships.
A few good places for some free resources:
Business improvement models and support. - for start-ups and scale up
Continuous improvement and accreditation help for free and not just for huge businesses, for you. Investors in People (IIP).
Thanks NatWest ;-), it is fantastic to be surrounded by so many talented people starting their own businesses.
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