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Updated: October 2, 2023 101

101: Scaling up

The startup phase always seems to get all the hype: It’s the sexy, entrepreneurial, begins-in-the-garage, idea stage of a company’s early beginnings. But when things ramp up and scale up, discipline kicks in. Things get more real. Leaders have to seriously hone in on their company’s team members, missions, products, and services like never before. Here are things to keep in mind about scaling up.

Make things repeatable. Scaling up is an in-between stage, says Justin Ferrabee in Forbes. “You’re shedding the nimbleness of the startup phase, but you have not yet achieved the stability of the grown-up phase. You’re establishing structures for predictable growth, but what you gain in reliability, you lose in flexibility and freedom.” Ferrabee refers to scaling up in business as a period of trade-offs, a delicate balancing act as a company grows.

Focus on marketing. Scaling is not a matter of chasing every potential angle, but defining a company’s core audience and targeting that, Fawn Weaver, who started Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey, told "You have to figure out which are the best opportunities and take your time doing that." 

If you’re a leader, stop trying to make all the decisions. Shikhar Ghosh, a professor at Harvard Business School, says it’s imperative to find and develop leadership during the growth phase. “You can’t make every decision anymore. If you try, you’ll not only become the bottleneck on projects, you’ll get in the way of your employees’ professional development. You, yourself, aren't a scalable resource,” he tells Forbes. This creates a V-curve, and initially makes the main leader less efficient. But as the subgroup makes its mistakes and becomes stronger, it becomes more efficient and learns along the way, he says, which is better for everyone, including the company as a whole.

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