Scaling Up

by Rob Stam

A few years ago my wife and I considered building an addition over our garage. I looked at the walls and ceiling beams to determine if it was possible. I thought it was, so I had a builder come over to look further. He concurred that the walls and ceiling beams were fine, but told me that the most important factor was whether or not the concrete footings were capable of supporting the weight. It was an unseen variable, below the ground, that would determine whether or not we could expand the house, not what was immediately visible.

One of the most common topics we address on a regular basis in business is how to scale up. There are several factors related to this such as a marketing strategy, pricing, resources, etc. But those are all irrelevant if the foundational “footings” aren’t in place. And that foundation begins with you.

Your marketing efforts, office or retail space, and business plan are only as valuable as the foundation on which they are built. That foundation has always been, and will always be, people. Here are two quick tips to building that stronger foundation.

First, in the words of the ancient Greeks: “Know Thyself.”

For us to scale consistently we have to be true to who we are. It’s impossible to effectively scale up a business from a place of inauthenticity. For many of us, what led us to our current career came at a sacrifice to some of the things that make us who we truly are. At some point we find ourselves re-examining that and trying to realign our career with our self (i.e. the midlife crisis). The sooner we begin the process of true self-examination, the sooner we can scale a career or business. What are you great at? Not great at? How do you want to (or not want to) spend your time? Then, what are doing to make yourself the best version of yourself possible? How are you keeping yourself motivated? Fueling your ambitions? Educating yourself?

Second, if you want the job done right, don’t do it yourself.

Wait, what? Yes you read that correctly. The original version of this old saying may apply in some scenarios, but what it really means is that if you want the job done right—based on how you define right—do it yourself. But you can’t scale up with that limited perspective.

Empowerment is also a key to scaling up. Yes, you risk someone fumbling the ball, but that’s how they learn and in turn how they surpass you. Any great leader will tell you that a key to his or her success was finding people who could take things further than they could themselves. Empowering others is how we find better ways of doing things and grow far beyond what we could on our own.

Know who you are and what you’re passionate about. Create a business or a department that allows, even demands, that people take the reins, make mistakes, and discover what hidden ideas and talents are lurking below the surface. That’s a foundation you can build on.