The Key Elements for Successful Scale-Ups
In my career, I have had fantastic opportunities working with innovation and product development, in essence because I am always looking for ways to improve life, making processes more efficient, removing bottlenecks and similar. Together with colleagues and my teams, we have been able to launch more than 30 new products and technologies over the years, that have changed markets and value chains, including the operations and business models of many of the largest corporates in the world. Technology can be fantastic, but you have to remember that to make an impact with innovation you have to collaborate. Achieving the disruption with the impact is always amazing and so rewarding in many ways, especially thinking that you and your team have been able to successfully change a common business practice.
Innovation is very much about changing mindsets, today what can be disrupted will be disrupted. It is coming at an increased pace. As a startup, it will be very challenging to make that impact by yourself. Corporates have a vast impact area, but they are dependent of startups and entrepreneurs to come with the disruptive solutions. If you can find ways of cooperating, interacting and finding synergies working with the corporates, you have a foundation for how to make an impact. Changing value chains, common practices and business solutions takes a big effort. You need to have patience, but also be agile and ready to do necessary pivoting.
The most important asset is the people, the core team that is developing the product, building the company. This is so essential that I am not sure I can emphasize this sufficiently. And the team will probably need to change depending on what stage you are in as a company — whether it is the founding stage, moving into the seed stage, then maturing and going commercial, expanding and scaling up. There will be many bumps along the road in the making of the market leader and you have to be very hands-on in terms of seeing what capabilities and skills your team need from time to time.
As a leader, I see my role as giving clear guidance and communicating how our big idea and strategy affects everyone, how we are going to execute well. This will be part of making everyone understand their roles and importance, it is not sales vs. operations, we all need to find the good interaction models.
Competition is everywhere, in order to remove blind spots and have the right competence and skills I also see team diversity (gender, nationalities, background etc) as key — this is actually a business opportunity! make the most out of it! Business today is global, so having the diversity helps in order to also have the skills to be agile, pivoting and to develop the products and services that brings value to users.
As a founder, I think it is essential to listen to user feedback, this will help you to build the right products that are removing user pain points and create unique value. Don’t love your product — love your business! This will help you to create the unique value proposition and make you stand out. Key is to ensure you are navigating towards your big idea, that guiding star.
When you are building your startup company, you might come to various phases where you consider external funding. I would say there is an abundance of available funding, so don’t just jump right after the first dollars thrown your way. Think of who do you want to partner with. Any investor you want to be part of your venture should also be someone that can bring you value. Look for the smart money. With your investors you will be together for a long time, for some, it might be even longer than a regular marriage…If the investors have a relevant network and competence that can help you strategize, find customers, improve the supply chain, add partners and recruiting, then there’s added value for you. Investors and founders should work together for the greater goals, even though the own agendas might differ occasionally. But I think that might also be good to be able to challenge each other, creating even better solutions and actions for the business development.
Over my many years as an entrepreneur, I have met the same customers over and over again, but under my various companies. Having built trust over many years by always ensuring to be honest and delivering what you promise. It does not mean that you never do mistakes or fail. But be clear about risks, technology and experience gaps. Communicate well with your stakeholders — customers, partners, employees, shareholders and suppliers. Being a disruptor you should know that you are changing mindsets and the common practices (like I have mentioned already!), it means that there is a long list of risk elements to handle and not everything is perfect right away.
The reputation of the startup is always at stake with the last delivery. You are the brand, build the recognition, make it relevant and also tie your activities to the larger societal topics.
With the TEAM, PRODUCT, MARKETING and FUNDING in place (and you need to monitor all these with an agile hands-on mentality) you have the right mix for being able to do a successful EXECUTION. Remember that scaling up will daily confront you with new problems and challenges, but learning, improving, repairing, pivoting etc will take you to the next level. Never give up — at some point you will be the master of your business! As a result you have been able to disrupt a traditional setup. And that is so rewarding. Best of luck!