Successful scaling is not just about sales

Published on
September 1, 2023
Amanda McDonald
Head of Strategy
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A five pillar guide to rapid and successful growth 

In Australia, more than 100,000 people set out on the path to start a new business every single year.

That’s a lot of people who are putting it all on the line in the name of passion, flexibility and building something that is theirs.

Not all of them will make it.

In fact, by the end of year one, 20% of those brand-new businesses, fuelled by elbow grease and long nights, will have faded away, and their founders will have either returned to employment elsewhere, or set about coming up with their next big idea.

By year three, the stats tell us around 60% of the remaining businesses will also have closed their doors. And while we hope it’s because they were incredibly successful and they’re now sipping champas on a boat somewhere off the coast of [insert dreamy tropical island name], unfortunately, for most of them, that isn’t the case.

So why aren’t these businesses making it?

Are their ideas not good enough? Their products or services priced too high? Is the battle too much, and they just give up?

In many cases, the answer to that question is actually something so much simpler – they tried to scale their business from the outside, before they were ready to support that growth on the inside.

Building success – that actually lasts!

A trap that so many founders fall into is the idea that businesses are built solely on quick wins — and as such, sales (and marketing) is the route to success.

But the reality is, larger, well-established businesses have multiple departments because sales and marketing just don’t cut it alone.

They’ve recognised that both winning and retaining a customer comes down to that customer’s experience. It comes down to how their enquiry was responded to, how their questions were answered, how they were onboarded, how they are supported. And all of those ‘hows’ are taken care of by areas that sit outside of marketing. 

Beyond that, they have finance and administration teams, among others, that keep everything running.

Start-ups and scale-ups often don’t have the funds to expand quickly and emulate these multi-departmental companies, but they can still learn from what those companies have identified as critical to their ongoing growth and success.

To successfully scale up — to grow rapidly AND sustainably (that’s how we define ‘successful’ scaling), businesses earlier in their lifecycle need to prepare their entire business, not just focus on sales and marketing.

The five pillars of successful scaling

If marketing and sales are the way we reach outside to scale our businesses, our commercial approach, operations, and our products or services are the internal foundation we build to support that growth and ensure we can keep it going once it gets started. 

They lock in that excellence in customer experience, they enable life-giving cash flow… they ensure our left hand knows what our right hand is doing. 

 The ‘inside’ foundation


Our commercial pillar is the concrete slab that our house is built on.

At its simplest, commercial is all about the numbers — what it costs to run, to procure, to build the product; it is our revenue and pricing models, how much we charge and how we make money over any given period of time. 

Critically, it is about the numbers we set for ourselves to measure our growth — our business goals and objectives. 

At its most complex, it is how we raise and secure funds as we set out to succeed at each sequential stage of growth. 

Commercial is the bottom line. Without having our pluses crossed and our divisions dotted, setting out to market and sell can be a futile activity. 

If A to B is your journey to success, commercial is the flag at the start of the road. 


By its very name, it is clear that a business will not run successfully without a clear focus on its operations.

The operations pillar is expansive and absolutely vital, covering everything from who and how we hire, to what technology we use and how we use it. It includes how everything is integrated, and it plugs up every single gap that a customer or prospect might fall through. 

Operations is modelling what and who we will need as we grow, and it is every process, procedure and policy that provides governance, communication, insights into performance and robustness of the actual business itself. 


Products and services come from ideas, often really good ideas. But going from concept to reality – executing on that idea – is not always as straightforward as it should be.

For most start-ups and scale-ups, product or service is still evolving, it is still a work in progress. Heck, for most established businesses, the roadmap for product advancement and evolution is long, winding and never-ending.

Think about old MS Word and how far it has come since it became a household staple. Microsoft launched it, and since day one, they have never really stopped working on it… and until it is retired, they never will.

Tangible products like Dyson vacuums, as another example, are exactly the same. They are constantly being improved upon and updated with the latest technology to ensure they are relevant. 

Services, again, are no different. They begin with what seems to be the solution to the problem, but as the business goes on, a deeper understanding of that problem is ever-identified, and as such, the solution keeps changing to ensure it meets the needs of the consumer.

For start-ups and scale-ups, one of the main challenges they have when it comes to product or service, is knowing or agreeing, when their product is ready to hit the market.

Too early and you risk damaging the brand, too late and you risk missing the boat as you strive for perfection. 

Key to product or service is not only solving that initial problem, but doing so in a unique way — finding that point of difference and really capitalising on it. 

When it comes to your foundation for growth, product, like commercial and operations, is key. Taking a product to market that is quality, different, relevant and truly meets a need makes all the difference. Continuing to develop it strategically, builds longevity. 

The outside growth


With a strong foundation in place, your business is actually ready to bring in, welcome and support new customers, delivering a customer experience they will share with friends or colleagues for all the right reasons.

Like the pillars for successful scaling, marketing requires its own strong foundation before the real growth can begin. Just diving straight into a social media campaign, for example, will likely not be successful if we don't do the work to clearly understand our audience first.

Marketing foundations start with our brand messaging — identifying our brand value proposition, our product USPs and those key messages we will always come back to in order to create consistency and credibility. 

On top of these comes a strategy and plan — research that underpins the development of customer profiles and segmentation, understanding of competitors and how they are performing, factors that will influence and impact, and the state of the landscape in which the business plans to launch and grow. 

The plan builds out initial key channels — website, socials, onboarding — that are high-quality, professional, engaging, relevant and designed to elicit action, to convert.

With foundations in place, the next step is building awareness — a step so often skipped by businesses, to their detriment. This critical stage not only ensures people recognise and eventually recall and recommend your brand as a solution, but that they see it as real, credible and trustworthy.

In a world where it feels every second text and email is a scam, building awareness is a step that should never be overlooked. 

Finally, comes lead generation — the use of multiple channels, both digital and traditional, that work together to bring in customers.


The integration between marketing and sales is also crucial to success. When working in isolation, leads fall away, messages become inconstant, effort is duplicated. When working together, one seamlessly passes the ball to the other for a winning game plan.

Sales is not just having the right people and tools in place, it’s having a solid nurture strategy to take them from lead to conversion.

Bringing it all together 

Having read through the pillars and the roles they play, the importance of each is now likely more than obvious. 

As noted right back at the start of this article, one pillar should not stand on its own, because alone, and supporting nothing, what is it? A stack? A chimney? Definitely something that only blows smoke!

Successful scaling — the type of expansion that isn’t fleeting and short-lived – requires more than sales, it requires a robust foundation that enables growth (commercial), supports growth (operations), drives growth (product) and is then leveraged to the fullest degree possible.