Scale-up learnings from top entrepreneurs

Is it time for your company to scale-up?



You are growing out of your start-up boots, staff numbers are rising, the client base is expanding, revenue is increasing and the business has established itself in the market. The signs are there that the company is ready to scale up. New challenges started to rise which means that the demands in terms of mindsets and actions are different. In a world littered with small business failures, it helps to be well-prepared for scaling up using a proven methodology. We started to notice a pattern when entrepreneurs reach this stage in their business and therefore can share a few factors that leads to a successful testimony.

When it comes to scaling up, the company will experience conflicting emotions. On the one hand, scaling up is a really exciting phase as it contributes to employment and therefore contributes to economic growth. On the other hand, scaling up can also turn out to be unsuccessful. There are three major constraints that limit company transition from start-up to scale-up:

Leadership Shift – At this stage, the leaders’ priorities need to shift from working in the company to working on the company and rather implement new leadership talent that can take charge to make sure that the company is still operating to its full potential.

Scalable Infrastructure – The processes, procedures, networks, systems and workflows of the business all need to be scalable. This is imperative when it comes to your infrastructure for the financial management of your business. You’re only ready for growth when your infrastructure can seamlessly keep pace.

Market Access – Scaling up demands more innovative marketing and storytelling so that you can more easily connect and engage with the new clients, employees, network partners, investors and mentors that need to come along with you on your scale-up journey. Businesses that build a market conversation and a compelling brand narrative during their start-up phase are better positioned to have this kind of market access when they need to scale up.

The question however is, how can we move through these constraints in order to achieve successful scaling.

There are four key drivers:


It is critical to hire the right people to form part of the team. Successful entrepreneurs have what it takes to captivate, inspire, engage and retain top talent. A strong team of smart, ambitious and purpose-driven people who love the company and want to see it succeed contribute greatly to a prosperous company culture. They are adept at communicating a compelling vision and establishing core values that people can take on. These entrepreneurs are tuned into the aspirations of their people and focus on developing leaders in their teams who can in turn develop more leaders.


Planning ensures that the right things are happening at the right time. At successful scale-ups, strategies and action plans are devised to ensure that the most important thing always remains the most important thing. Strategy includes input from all team members and setting of good priorities for the short, medium and long term. Goals are clear and everyone always knows what they are working towards. The needle is continuously moved because 90-day action plans are implemented each quarter to achieve targets and goals that are over and above people doing their daily jobs.

Flawless execution

Top entrepreneurs are not just focused on what operations need to achieve, but how the business operates. They have the right procedures, processes and tools in place so that everyone can deliver along the line on the company’s brand promise. Frequent, quick successive meetings ensure the rapid flow of effective communication. Problems are solved without drama. There is no chaos in the office environment. Everyone is empowered to execute flawlessly to an array of consistently happy clients.


Everyone knows that growth burns cash. A rapidly scaling business faces the challenge of needing a scalable financial infrastructure to keep the company healthy. Successful entrepreneurs pay close attention to finance as the heartbeat of the business, ensuring that everything else functions. They look at the tech they are using for financial management and for the ways that their financial systems can be automated so that they can be brought rapidly to scale. The capital to grow is another vital finance issue. The best way to finance a business is through paying clients on the shortest possible cash flow cycle. However, when you are scaling up and making heavier investments in the resources you need for growth, it is likely that you will need a workable plan for raising capital.  Entrepreneurs who scale-up know the value of accessing innovative financial management that provides high level services to drive their business growth.

Navigating the scale-up journey of a growing private company is one of the hardest but most rewarding of careers to pursue. Having people in your corner who have been through this journey before helps take a lot of pain out of the process. No growth journey looks the same, but there are tried and tested methods that will – if applied diligently – lead to definite success. Happy scaling.

Louw Barnardt CA(SA) is the 2018 Sanlam/Business Partners Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year® and a Top 35 under 35 Chartered Accountant. As co-founder at Outsourced CFO, Louw and his board lead a team of twenty-five finance professionals that render CFO, cloud accounting and fundraising services to scaling companies.

Learn more at Outsourced CFO.