Pains of Scaling Up — Changing from the start-up mentality

Published on
November 3, 2022
Peter Brocklebank
Managing Director, Partner
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The praise given to start-up thinking is hard to ignore. As a growth consultancy, we at BeingIconic believe that even large-scale enterprises should adopt this mindset in order to stay relevant in the face of constantly changing tides. Or risk being left behind.

However, is start-up thinking the cure-all to all business aches and pains? Not exactly.

Why Think Like a Start-Up?

Firstly, with start-up thinking, businesses are encouraged to tap into all of their employees and other resources for fresh ideas. After all, experts do not have a monopoly on innovative thinking.

Specialists can only have a bird’s eye view of what is truly happening on the ground. It is the employee who is living, breathing, or putting up with whatever efficiency — or lack thereof — is available to each department, at every level of the organisation.

Employees all have a part to play and should therefore be encouraged to contribute. When business leaders ask their employees to step up and come up with ideas, they will most likely be happy to do so. However, this is only possible when employers also simultaneously provide much-needed funding, mentorship, and time off from regular job responsibilities to focus on making these ideas a reality.

Secondly, start-up thinking enables open and honest communication. This fosters psychological safety, which is the shared belief among team members to not embarrass, reject, or punish each other for speaking up. Psychological safety paves the way for a culture of innovation.

When employers enable transparent communication between them, their employees, and their stakeholders, their organisation becomes a place where everyone feels safe to freely share ideas, express opinions, and provide constructive feedback.

This, of course, entails that leaders must also be flexible when validating ideas, addressing opinions, pivoting toward solutions, and taking necessary strategic risks that build on insights from employees.

Lastly, start-up thinking gives merit and importance as much to the people who churn out the ideas as to the ideas themselves. This requires innovation to be the impetus behind their daily overarching business processes, not just on their product development approach.

The Wisdom and Merits of Large-Scale Enterprises

Although not as agile as start-ups, large, well-established organisations also encompass a core set of strengths, partnerships, and resources necessary to fast-track innovation and growth.

Firstly, the most successful organisations are the ones that consistently leverage partners and build on existing processes. This enables them to strengthen their ability to scale their solutions, iterations, and reach sustainably.

Secondly, large enterprises are also equipped with the brainpower to clarify and hyperfocus on broader, long-term goals. With this valuable resource, they do so without losing themselves in chasing the next best app or product.

Lastly, large businesses know when to put business outcomes and value first. Start-up thinking puts founders at risk of allowing fleeting emotions, passions, and ideals to constantly take the wheel. This, in turn, might hurt the organisation’s financial bottom line. Wanting to change the world might be noble, but large enterprises know that they can only go so far if they do not tidy up their approach and hold themselves accountable to their investors.

By tapping into their diverse talent pool, well-established customer base, robust network of partners, and comprehensive marketing channels, big businesses can easily broaden and strengthen the exposure and credibility of their ideas and deliver on constantly moving targets.

Merging the Best of Both

Start-ups, when combined with a large enterprise’s resources and ability to scale, have great potential in competing in today’s highly volatile, constantly changing socio-economic landscape.

It all starts by preserving start-up thinking and encouraging leaders to keep championing innovation from the bottom up. Next, everyone should still be given equal opportunities and support to spark, share, and develop innovative ideas. This is done to strengthen inclusion and diversity in thinking, no matter how big the company becomes.

This also empowers employees to tap into their entrepreneurial potential as they make decisions with the company and, with a little luck, pave the way for more growth.

Start-up thinking has, indeed, served founders well in getting their brand and products out there. By also incorporating some of big business’s best assets into their strategies, start-up founders are able to create an environment that sets them up for continuous, sustainable, long-term success and growth.

As scale-up specialists, we at BeingIconic have successfully supported clients in merging the best of both the start-up and enterprise way of life to get young businesses to the next stage of growth. Partner with us today to find out how we can do the same for you.