In a recent chat with a business owner who has become a friend rather than a client this was a passing comment made towards the end of our conversation. It is not uncommon for a business owner to want to grow their business. But in this instance I actually expressed some caution. The short piece below represents my reflection on that conversation.

This is by most measures already a successful business. A successful designer that now manufactures his own high end product range. A product range that is placed in high end interior design outlets globally as well as some 5 star + hotels across Europe and the Middle East. A business that has been trading for ten years plus, with its own intellectual property (in design) and a very well thought of brand in the circles that matter.

None of the above bothered me. For as long as I have known the owner I have admired what he has achieved. He wants to scale up? Of course he does…….but………..but what?

This explains my hesitation.

When I dug into what the future vision of the business was there was less clarity at a detailed level. Sure, growth ambition, but grow to what? Why?

That’s a big omission. Scaling up means change. It means investment. It means risks. If you don’t have an absolute picture on where you want to be you could invest in the wrong areas. This wasn’t a business ‘just wanting to grow revenue’ this scaling up ambition was meant as a strategic change. A structural evolution. Deciding what the ‘end game’ may look like is very important prior to investing in the scale up ambition. Below are the examples I used in that conversation on how those investment options may look different with different goals.

As a business owner nearing fifty, and the business built entirely around him, if his goal was to retire in the next five years we would set about planning for a management team in place by that time, with sufficient experience to run the business without him present day to day. This would mean the business could operate without him, essential if he was to sell or step back from a going concern.

If his vision was to work for another ten years and sell the business achieving maximal value we may focus on sales and marketing resource investment, and suitable capacity increases to support that if required.

It maybe his future thought was to leave the business to one of his children in which case we would start planning their path through the business over the  years making sure enough support was in place.

My point is having a scale up ambition often simply is not enough, certainly when you can possibly foresee an exit. To achieve sustainable growth you need a fairly tightly defined vision to prioritise investment of both time and money. This vision may flex over time, it is not totally rigid, but very rarely should it morph into something else entirely regardless of setbacks and challenges. If the vision remains the same it is much more likely that you will get there!

Part of my role as a consultant is to help business owners and leaders shape their vision and plan steps to achieve their goals. Providing external critical analysis of growth plans often saves time and money as as well as giving confidence in the plan. Often my expertise and experience helps foresee and overcome challenges those in the business day to day may miss. If you have ambitions of scaling up get in touch. My light touch service can cost less than £400 per month and could deliver many times that in savings and growth.