Scaling a business doesn’t mean just getting bigger

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Scaling a business: Brace for change on three fronts

Frequently, growth organizations miss out on three key areas of scaling a business:

  1. Scaling culture
  2. Scaling leadership
  3. Scaling organization

Failure to plan for and execute the scaling of these three key areas of any organization will result in the eventual decay and probable demise of your startup.

Unfortunately, scaling a business means change. If you want more power for more lights, you have to change that wiring. You still need wiring material, but it needs to be more robust, maybe with more circuits. The same holds true for scaling intangibles like culture, leadership and organizational structure.

Want to scale your cool startup culture? You need to examine it and decide what makes it so cool: What are you willing to give up, what would you lay down your life for to keep? Then look at models for scaling those elements of culture. You can’t just assume that the way the five of you worked together when you started the company, will work when you grow to 20 or 50 people. The dynamics of group interactions change quickly as the number of people grows. Check out this video to the left I did back in 2013 to illustrate the complexity of communication in growing organizations.

That is just the surface of the complexities of scaling a business. With company growth, also comes an increase in interpersonal dynamics, company politics, the power structure, and the ceremonial culture. When you have only five people, there isn’t a very complex social network that forms. When you have 50 people, there is a lot to know.

The same is true of leadership when scaling a business. You need to carefully consider how decisions will be made, what qualities you want to instill in all new leaders, what leadership traits can you hire for, and what can you train.