Scale or Fail: How to Build Your Dream Team, Explode Your Growth, and Let Your Business Soar, By Allison Maslan
Michelangelo put the central issue of the book succinctly: "The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark."
Amazon, Apple, Google, HP and Disney all originated in garages (literally or figuratively) and then outgrew them. "Imagine," writes the author Allison Maslan, "if they’d never left their garages – what do you think would have happened?"
Every micro, small, and even medium-size business person should ask themselves this important question: Is this how big I wish to be? Is this big enough?
The book’s thesis is that doubling your business does not mean working doubly hard, it is about leveraging your team’s talents and your own intellectual and leadership abilities.
Maslan advises that the journey towards a much larger business than you currently have, starts with developing a 'Big Picture Vision' that is exciting enough to drive you to keep pushing to make it a reality, no matter what obstacles arise. This is commonplace advice. However, it is Maslan’s method that separates her from the plethora of motivational speakers and authors who all essentially suggest that you can envision your dream into reality.
Your 'Big Picture Vision' is nothing more than an idea of what your future can look like. It is your skill and perseverance that makes it happen, if ever it will. Sitting in a quiet space and reviewing your vision will assist you to stick to it, by doing little more than reminding yourself that you have a vision. This is important because hyper-activity easily gets you off track.
It is at the concrete level that this book is most useful. To scale your business, you will have to face numerous realities.
One is the truth about cashflow. You will need to prepare for your inevitable cashflow crunches, and this requires being as revenue-focused as you possibly can be. You will need to maintain an abiding and unceasing focus on sales, marketing, and relationship-building.
You have to be on top of your numbers, and the most important number is your profit – what you go home with at the end of the day. So many entrepreneurs and smaller business owners are not aware of their cost of doing business, their percentage of growth (or loss) over time, and their net profit.
There are two levels at which you will need to know your financial goals in order to be ready to scale. The amount of revenue you must bring in to keep the lights on and meet the payroll. Then, the amount of revenue that you need in your business to be able to breathe comfortably. These are foundational numbers.
Once you are scaling, the focus will be on your products, team and systems, and seeing they are in place. Then you will see traction in your growth, and your revenue and profits rise.
Maslan believes that many start-ups fail, counter-intuitively, because they receive adequate funding, and see this as the end-all panacea. It certainly isn’t.
There are two critical elements that deserve attention. The first is to surround yourself with the right team to help you scale, and add to your organisation’s body of knowledge.
Steve Jobs famously said: It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do. We hire smart people, so they can tell us what to do.
To find the right people, first approach solid employees who enjoy working for your company, because the chances are good that they can identify someone who has the skills, and is the right cultural fit.
As you grow your company, everything must evolve. This involves giving up a great deal of control to competent others. Many founders don’t take this step because they fear mistakes will be made, the ball dropped, or money will seep out the company through the cracks. You cannot scale unless you have the right people and allow them to run most of the business.
Additionally, you cannot scale if you don’t have good systems and processes. To scale successfully requires ensuring that goods and services are delivered brilliantly. Without good people, system and processes, you have to do all the work, and there is a point at which you simply cannot find enough hours in the day.
If everyone looks to you for direction for things big and small (and everything in the middle), this will make scaling your business impossible. If your people are incapable of making decisions without you, your business will sink fast.
As Maslan explains, "systems, processes, and execution are the behind-the-scenes orchestra to scaling a lucrative and sustainable company." Only good people can make this happen.
What you will need to ensure is achieved, as the very first activity, every single day at work, is sales. Each and every day: sales, sales, and more sales! Companies that are focused on revenue don’t struggle with cash flow as so many others do. To achieve this is only possible when you turn clients into "raving fans".
Raving fans are not paying you for your time, because you are worth much more than that. What they are paying you for is your wisdom, years of experience and study, capabilities, skills, ideas, insight, and the proprietary process that you have developed. Networking shouldn’t be understood as ‘meeting people’: rather it requires that you become the type of person and company other people want to meet.
As you scale your business, your central tasks lie in four areas. You are responsible for creating and ensuring the realisation of the vision. You will need to identify what needs to be done. You will need to employ the right people to run the business, while you provide the support, environment, and tools to make it all happen.
"If you’re working day and night and not making money, you’re not charging enough," Maslan observes. And you are probably undervaluing yourself. So many business people, deep down, don’t believe they deserve success, and so never take their companies to the next level.
This book is easy to read and learn from, and could be enormously helpful. Its strongest point is how to scale your business "through your systems, not your blood."
Readability Light -+--- Serious
Insights High --+-- Low
Practical High -+--- Low
*Ian Mann of Gateways consults internationally on strategy and implementation and is the author of ‘Strategy that Works’ and ‘The Executive Update.’ Views expressed are his own.