Power up your scaleup: creating a thriving scaleup business
March 20, 2024

Power up your scaleup: creating a thriving scaleup business

The lure of freedom

Being our own boss has become increasingly attractive. With the reality of corporate life creating escalating disillusionment, the draw to work for ourselves is now hugely appealing.

Let's take a look at the evidence. At the end of 2023, the global population was approaching 8.1 billion people, of which 3.4 billion were employed. According to Gallup, only 23% of people globally reported being actively engaged at work, 59% were not engaged, or "quiet quitting", and 18% were actively disengaged and voicing discontent. 44% experience stress, 21% feel angry often, while 51% of respondents reported an active intent to leave their current employer. Yikes! Talk about a pretty bleak outlook on our experience of work. Unsurprisingly, over 800,000 aspiring business owners launched new businesses in the UK in 2022-23. From 2010 to 2020, the number of new business registrations globally per 1,000 people ages 15-64 has increased from 1.9 to 3.5, showing a continuing growth in the desire to be our own boss.

But why? The risks are so high?

For many, this goal is driven by the most basic of motivators: the desire for freedom, to release ourselves from the binds of the 'rat race' and escape the drudgery of clocking in on someone else's timesheet to make them richer. We want more choice over when and how we work. Others of us are driven by the belief in our ideas. We want to disrupt how an industry operates, or at least how a particular customer issue is overcome. We have a far better product, service or offering than the competition or a fundamentally different way of seeing the world that can transform our customers' experience. Some of us have simply always wanted to have our own business. This is about more than freedom or our creative genius. This is about leaving our mark, our legacy that enables us to stand out or differentiate ourselves. A calling, if you will.

There's another reason, though. One that drives founders to go beyond a 'lifestyle business' to create a growing, scaleup business. You might be one of those founders who innately believe that the leaders you have worked for in your career have not gotten it right. You can do it better. You want to grow a business: to nurture a more sizable organisation with a serious value proposition and credible brand. To do that, you must take the company beyond its startup phase and into something more serious and structured: a scaleup organisation.

A more complex way of operating

This decision brings increased complexity. It starts with expanding the team. This brings about more social complexity. Different ideas. Different relationships. New ways of working. This means thinking through what it means to be an employer rather than just looking after yourself. Overheads are bigger. You need to coordinate workloads. Create a culture and agree on ways of working. You can't be in every decision or interaction. It's harder to be in control of everything. You worry about the decisions your teams are making. You hear rumblings from your existing clients, things not being delivered to your standards or expectations. You introduce more processes to ensure the team produces results as you want. You begin to spot errors. Despite the great CVs and impressive achievements, none of the team seem to care about what they are delivering in the way you think they should. They don't seem to 'get' it.

Escalating issues

Tensions surface between teams. Workflows become more involved, and projects require handovers between various parts of the growing organisation. It feels like you are losing touch with everything that is going on in the business. You work harder to feel more in control of what is going on. Before long, your already long working hours have extended further into evenings and weekends to keep all the extra plates spinning.

Sound familiar? I've heard a version of this story so many times from the founders and the teams we work with. Sadly, if not addressed, this pattern leads to more severe outcomes: founder burnout. Check out some of our other articles on founder burnout to explore this topic further.

Rethinking how you grow and scale

Do you resonate with these feelings? If so, don't worry. You are not alone. There is a way through. Where the founder, or founding team, can expand their impact in the world AND achieve this in a way that does not follow this pattern. This change not only involves leading the organisation into a more mature state. It also involves a vital transformation in you, the founder, from the role of founder to the role of leader. 

As a result of our work with numerous scaleup organisations, we have created the Scaleup Acceleration Framework. This is not a prescriptive checklist or set of steps. Instead, it is a dynamic, holistic framework that encourages and enables founders to nurture the right conditions and environment to scale with their people. It has been used with marketing agencies, recruitment firms, consultancies, accountancy firms and software developers. Any organisation that provides professional services to other businesses. The framework helps founders design how to bring their people with them to define and shape their scaleup growth strategy, culture for performance, scaleup finances, scaleup operations and scaleup proposition.

Working together with your people can enable a far more agile and adaptive scaleup business where people want to stick around and do their very best work. Are you ready to be a human-centric leader? Join the rebellion and embrace the collective strengths of your people to power up your scaleup.

So, what do I do now?

How about taking stock of where you are in your scaleup journey and what strengths and opportunities there are for you to take your businses to the next level? Check out our free 24-question diagnostic to help you surface your scaleup's strengths and growth opportunities. Taking just 2 minutes to complete, this questionnaire can help you build a targeted Scaleup Acceleration Plan for your business today.

Written by Barry McNeill | Founder and Managing Director of Work Extraordinary

Barry has over 25 years supporting leaders and teams to be more effective in driving business outcomes, such as growth, customer service and impact. He and his team have helped numerous founders, founding teams and growing organisations to develop new ways of working to achieve scaleup growth, enhanced culture, improved operational effectiveness and customer impact. You can connect with Barry through the social channels on this website.

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