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8 ways to build a scalable start-up

Learn how to build a business you can scale – in other words, how you can increase your profits while lowering your costs. Find out how to use things such as marketing, business planning, customer loyalty and outsourcing to deliver more for less.

If you’re looking to take your start-up to the next level, growth is important, but it’s scaling that really matters.

Getting lots of customers will help your company grow, but you aren’t scaling if servicing those new sales simply adds more overheads for your business.

A growing business is one with revenue and costs that grow at a similar rate. A scalable business increases its profits but also lowers its costs. In simple terms, scaling is about delivering more for less.

Want to learn more about what it takes to market your start-up?

Learn how to think creatively and define your brand with our free Marketing in the 21st Century course. As part of our Learn with Start Up Loans partnership with The Open University, our online course is free to join, delivered by experts and includes a free statement of participation on completion.


Building a scalable start-up

Here are eight ways to scale your new business.

Have a strong plan

Planning for scalability early on in your business journey is a wise move. Starting with your business plan, you should understand how you’re going to scale.

A plan is essential for keeping you on track and ensuring you meet your objectives. Investors will expect to see evidence that you understand how future growth will be achieved if you seek funding.

You need to understand everything about your business, including sales, marketing, cash flow and people. Have detailed sales forecasts, a marketing plan and team structure details for now and the future.

Remember though, your plan isn’t set in stone; keep it updated and be prepared to be flexible should markets or situations change.

Download the Start Up Loans business plan template to help you get started.


Automate processes

Efficient processes are crucial to scalability. Systems should be streamlined, and routine business tasks simplified. As your business grows, look to automate with time-saving and flexible technology.

For example, using spreadsheets to manage customers can get unwieldy. Customer relationship management (CRM) software, on the other hand, will help you store and organise data so you can track interactions, monitor buying habits and send targeted marketing messages.

Other technologies that can help your business scale include accounting software, payroll systems, project management tools, collaboration apps and social media management services.


Focus on marketing

For your business to succeed, you need as many people as possible to know about it. While word of mouth will deliver customers, it’s not the best way to achieve significant growth.

Formulate a strategic plan to reach a broad audience. Your marketing should communicate how you stand out from your competitors and why your values resonate with your customers.

Focus on marketing methods with the best return on investment and test with a small budget. Social media, content and email marketing are worth investigating. Investing in advertising that targets your exact customer base could also be part of your plan.

Learn with Start Up Loans has a useful free course that provides an overview of marketing


Encourage customer loyalty

To scale, encourage deep loyalty from customers who love your business. Developing this starts with your team. Ensure they understand and embrace your business’ values and purpose. That enthusiasm will then translate to customers.

Customers need to feel valued, so look at how you can provide exceptional customer service. Every interaction by customers with your business should be as problem-free as possible. From how easy your website is to use to how you answer telephone queries, your customer service must exceed expectations.

If problems arise, respond quickly and clearly with solutions. Don’t leave complaints festering on social media.

Seek feedback and use positive responses such as testimonials. Encouraging user-generated content on social media that you then serve back to your community can be much more powerful than a sales message you craft yourself.

Providing special offers, perks and discounts can also encourage customer loyalty, so consider creating a formal programme to reward repeat sales. Such programmes can be a source of valuable data on how your customers behave.


Hire the right people

Scale-ups need great people behind them, so think strategically when it comes to recruitment. You may be tempted to fill roles with family and friends, but that doesn’t necessarily help scale a business.

You need to stay lean, so hire employees only when absolutely necessary. Take on staff with the knowledge and expertise to achieve the scale you want. Look for people with multiple skills and a capacity for lots of great ideas.

Your team needs to share your values, have the right attitude and understand your objectives. The culture you set at the start can have a significant impact on your company’s growth.

Cohesion and cooperation among your employees are vital. Coming together to deliver projects effectively will contribute to business growth. For tips on successfully delivering a project, access this free course from Learn with Start Up Loans.


Outsource to experts

While you should keep core skills in-house, outsourcing other costly and time-consuming tasks can be hugely beneficial.

Trying to do everything yourself can slow you down. Consider handing over areas such as accounting, web development and search engine optimisation to external experts. This allows your business to expand without the need to invest in new staff, premises and equipment. It can also help reduce overheads, increase profits and help your business to scale.


Getting investment

Many start-ups bootstrap by self-financing or using money from family or friends, but to scale, you may need to take on funding.

Your options include:

The Government has a useful guide to sources of business funding.

If someone invests in your business – sometimes referred to as angel or venture capital (VC) investors – you’ll have to give up some control of your business in exchange for their investment. As well as funding, you’ll also benefit from the investor’s expertise and contacts, which could help your business scale quickly.


Build a network

The best entrepreneurs don’t do it on their own. They cultivate a network of useful contacts and advisers to help them scale.

Attend regular networking events to meet people who can be useful to your business. Joining trade associations and business groups can help you learn new skills and meet fellow entrepreneurs to share ideas, solve challenges and form collaborations.

A business growth coach may be useful and seeking out a mentor is recommended. Track down entrepreneurs who have successfully scaled a business in your sector and ask if they are willing to mentor you. A mentor isn’t there to run your business for you, but with years of experience, they will be aware of the pitfalls and help you avoid them. They can also provide valuable contacts which you may struggle to find yourself.

Read more about the ways a mentor can help your business scale

Learn with Start Up Loans

Check out our free online courses in partnership with the Open University on effective marketing techniques. Our free Learn with Start Up Loans courses include:

Plus free courses on finance and accounting, entrepreneurship, project management, management and leadership.

Disclaimer: While we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circumstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.

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