Your one-way ticket to growth

A culture that scales is driven by a great vision, inclusivity and finding and retaining great people, but, most importantly (and first), it is about a growth mindset. That is where a culture that scales begins.

To keep a culture that scales at the core of your business, you need to pay attention to the 5Es:

  • Excite and inspire the people you want to lead on your growth journey
  • Enrol people in that vision.
  • Engage people in an inclusive culture so that they feel valued and everyone is aligned with the growth journey.
  • Elevate people to maximise performance.
  • Energise people to supercharge growth and make it fun. A happy team leads to productivity and growth. Exit people in a way that does not stifle growth (part of managing your workforce strategy in a way that aligns with your culture).

First, you need to establish the growth mindset that needs to be embedded in your culture from the start. When setting out or when trying to scale a business, the mindset of an entrepreneur needs to be absolutely committed to growing. No ifs, no buts and no need for an exact plan about how to get there. Just a commitment that, no matter what, you will grow.

There was never a year at finnCap when I didn’t think about how we were going to grow. Quite often, I didn’t know exactly how we would get there, but I was happy to have that come later, and we would always find a way. What never left my vision was that growth was the only option.

There is always a way to grow, but you may not find it if you aren’t set up for growth from the start. If you think of new geographies, new sectors and new products as the three key areas in which to scale, there is almost limitless potential. Once you set out on a path towards growth, options that you may not have thought about, or may not have seen as available to you before, will start to become visible. New products, new services, new sectors, new add-ons, new geographies and new people who have new ideas all start to present themselves when you start thinking bigger. Developing a consistent and committed growth mindset is the most underestimated part of growing a business, and also the most important. Yes, it is scary, and no, it isn’t easy, but a shift in mindset is necessary if you are going to scale your business and ensure that growth becomes embedded in your culture.

From observing businesses you know, including your competitors and some in different industries, you will notice that some of them will have grown (some slowly and some very fast), some will have stayed where they are and some will have shrunk, or even gone bust. What those that grow have in common, is a CEO or founder who has set out a vision for growth, with growth as part of their mindset. As the CEO, you are the company’s growth champion.

Grow your growth mindset

If you are fully committed to growth, and constantly thinking and talking about growth, you will scale your business.

When you set out a plan, no matter how big or optimistic it is, you increase your chances of success simply by saying, ‘This is the plan, and we’re going to get there’.

If you are a business that has just reached £1 million turnover and you say, “I just can’t see how I’m ever going to get to £5m”, you are not going to get to £5 million. If you say, ‘Right, we’re getting to £5 million,’ even if you have no idea how, it then becomes absolutely possible.

In the early days of finnCap, when we were a small division, our first task was to cover costs with revenue and to start making a small profit that we could reinvest to keep the business growing. That early stage of trying to hit £1 million revenue is always the hardest step because you’re working so hard and taking on every single role. It’s worth remembering that growing gets incrementally easier as revenue grows. Once you have got to £1 million revenue you have done the hard part and proved that you have commercial potential. That is why venture capitalists and investors start looking at businesses at around £1 million revenue, or certainly £1 million of annual recurring revenue (ARR), because they have proved their commercial concept.

However quickly you want to scale is up to you, but the most important thing is to set a target. You don’t need to know yet how you’re getting to £500,000 or £1 million, £2 million, £3 million or £10 million; you just need to be clear that that’s where you’re going. The planning comes later but the growth trajectory is set. It’s all relative: if you’re at £200,000 turnover, £2 million or even £1 million seem far away, but you need to be thinking constantly about the next milestone on the journey and believe you can get there.

It takes almost the same amount of effort and energy to double revenue at each stage. That’s why it takes a long time to scale a business, and it can’t be done overnight. A lot of people get disheartened when they hit £500,000 revenue because they have already gone through many doubling journeys – but the next doubling journey will get you to £1 million in revenue, and that will be no harder than getting from £250,000 to £500,000. As you grow, you will build your skillset and the process of doubling revenue will get easier as the numbers get bigger.