Five misconceptions that stop start-ups becoming scale-ups

By Mark Woodhams, Managing Director, EMEA for Oracle NetSuite 

Setting up your own company is a notoriously tricky business and the path to growth is rarely straightforward. Much has been written about the growing pains that face start-ups and small businesses as they seek to scale-up, take on more staff and expand into new markets. The relentless quest for growth in an increasingly complex and uncertain business environment can be exhausting for founders and those running small businesses.

Often as a small business grows into what is increasingly termed a “scale-up”, those daily challenges start to change and the pressure to continue growing increases further. Even with strong leadership, good people and the right technology that simplifies day-to-day operations and keeps the business running efficiently, it’s easy to fall-foul of one or all of the below misconceptions that can inhibit growth.

  1. It’s all on me

Start-up owners need to accept that they can’t be expected to know everything about their business, make every decision single-handedly or run it purely on instinct alone. This is the first road to exhaustion, errors and failure. It’s imperative to share the load.

It’s not easy to delegate, especially when you’ve grown a business from the ground up, but as a business expands there are simply too many moving parts for one person to successfully manage. Passion and instinct are essential for any entrepreneur, but so, too, is knowing when to bring in help.

Help doesn’t always come in the form of more staff, the right technology can also help a company move from start-up to scale-up.

While exciting new technologies such as AI are also starting to show value to companies of all sizes, promising significant improvements to the speed and quality of decision making, the right business management software can also deliver efficiency gains and automate many necessary but time-consuming tasks such as data crunching or compiling reports.

  1. Customer data is king

Data is essential to the success of all modern businesses, regardless of size and industry.  Whether a start-up or scale-up, it’s likely that you’ll already be analysing your customer data to spot trends and get a better understanding of buying habits and much more.

It’s easy to fall into the trap that customer data is the be-all and end-all, but operational data shouldn’t be overlooked. Having an overarching view of how your business is working will help identify inefficiencies that need addressing and set strong foundations for consistent ongoing growth. 

  1. Disruption won’t affect me

Many start-up owners believe that they’re too small to be affected by disruption. That is certainly not the case, no matter the size of the business, no-one is safe from disruption. One of the worst things a start-up owner can do is assume they will always be in-demand and are small and stable enough to survive disruption in your industry.

  1. Don’t let short term success fool you

As a start-up founder, it’s easy to assume that – following a period of growth – your business is destined to continue on an upwards trajectory. That’s rarely the case. Maintaining growth requires constant attention and you can’t take your foot off of the accelerator. While it might be tempting to ease off in the wake of success, the reality is that if you’re standing still you’re really going backwards. Momentum is everything when growing a business and getting back on track after a break is doubly tough.

  1. You have to be big to go global

Finally, far too many start-ups hold themselves back from scaling-up in the belief that they should stay put in their local market and leave the rest of the world to bigger brands. Today’s technology has, among other things, opened the door for companies of all sizes to global markets and enabled them to take advantage of opportunities beyond their own backyard.

Ultimately, in order for start-ups to scale up, they need to think about how they identify and exploit new opportunities wherever they are.

Mark Woodhams is EMEA Managing Director at NetSuite. NetSuite’s technology has helped some of the most talked about companies in the world including Deliveroo, Spotify and Snapchat, grow from start-up to major international business.