how to scale up from a startup: becoming the success story

Every entrepreneur has the ability to transform a business from a humble startup to a corporate enterprise.  

In most cases, if you have the drive to set up a startup - then you already have the key to success. 

Take Xero founder Rod Drury as an example. Rod established Xero, a revolutionary cloud-computing accounting business, as a startup and took it to the next level by launching the business in the public eye with just 100 paying customers. 

Xero was a little startup from New Zealand and is now one of the world’s most successful cloud-accounting businesses with more than 1,000 staff, over 400,000 customers and a net worth of more than a billion dollars. 

So how did Rod manage to scale up the business? 

It’s a question that is difficult to answer in one sentence, but there some key qualities that can be attributed to startups that have taken things to the next level and scaled up successfully. 

1. have a clear vision 

From day one, Rod identified the idea of a cloud-based finance platform as the “killer app” for small businesses – and it stuck. He knew exactly how to tell this story, with years of experience and a strong track record to back it up.  This helped massively when it came to investors. 

Vaughan Rowsell, founder and former CEO of the New Zealand-based cloud retail operating system Vend, always believed that his startup would be a global company from day one. With this vision and drive, he was able to quickly upscale teams and customers, without looking back. He managed to build a $100 million business in just four years.

Takeaway: If investors can see your vision as clearly as you can – then you will quickly achieve the backing you need to expand. 


2. build a diverse team

Having a clear vision that convinces investors isn’t enough to succeed. 

While Rod worked as the key storyteller of the Xero company message – he also recognised that he needed to have a diverse team behind him, with a range of skills that complimented his. 

He knew from day one that they would need at least 50 people to make this work. This meant a huge payroll from day one. Rod made sure that when his company went live with just 100 paying customers, of which Rod claims were mostly friends and family, he had his full team ready to go. 

Takeaway: While the CEO can pitch to investors and clients, the core team members need to be working behind the scenes on the structure of the company. 


3. stay on top of your game

When you are growing a business you can never switch off from the industry you work in.  You need to be aware of new technology, developments and other great startups out there that will serve as your competitors. You have to be able to react quickly and be flexible in order to build up from a startup to a large business. 

Takeaway: However tough at the beginning, someone in your team needs to be available and aware almost 24/7 to keep the company active and relevant.


4. grow at a fast, but reasonable pace

There is a temptation to grow beyond your means, and while it pays to be ambitious, it’s also important to set goals that are achievable. Many startups promote their message through marketing in the early days, without a sales team to push the brand. Vend, for example, were adopted by small retailers at the beginning when after just two years they grew their business to accommodate larger customers and incorporated a sales team when the time was right.

Takeaway: Set manageable goals for your business to grow as fast as the industry and your customers allow.


5. have the best tools

Having the most cutting-edge technology plays a big part in your success, even if that means taking on transformations along the way. Vend attracted larger customers by creating more niche products as they grew to suit the needs of larger customers. They also gave customers the flexibility to choose from their products so they can “turn on and pay” the features they actually need.

Takeaway:
 Be a leader in your field’s tech to ensure that you are able to follow through on your promise as a big business. 

Ultimately, there isn’t one way of scaling up – but these five or more aspects need to be considered before taking your startup to the next level: grow fast, but within reason, stay on top of your game, have the best tools and the best team, and have a clear vision. 

Good luck out there!
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