From Start-up to Scale-up: Dealing with the Challenges

Startupsby Mashum Mollah05 December 2019


Your friend from Brisbane is currently visiting for a few weeks. You’re excited to talk to him about the progress of your start-up, and you plan to take him to the headquarters with the recently installed office fit-outs.

You’re excited to talk to him about how your little company has grown and how you’re excited about getting to the next stage.

When you met, he shared his thoughts about your plans for the future. His message was that it’s good that you’re feeling enthusiastic about your company and that it’s great you’ve gone over that hump of not being part of the 30% that fails in the first two years. But his most important message was that scaling up and getting to that next level will have its challenges too.

You should be prepared for these challenges:

Start-up to Scale-up

You’ve moved to a new and bigger HQ. That’s one indicator that you’ve crossed the line from being a start-up to a scale-up operation. While you’re over the hump of the dreaded first two years, you’re not yet over the dreaded 90% and 5-years failure test within the first five years. Scaling up means shifting your focus toward responding to customer concerns.

According to research, other indicators that you’ve crossed the threshold include firming up your HR operation to retain and recruit the best people, an improved social media presence, and showcasing efforts to improve customer experience.

Dealing with the Challenges of Scaling-up

shifting your focus

It’s still alright to maintain your energy and enthusiasm about your growth and the prospect of more success in the future. But it’s also important not to lose sight of how difficult growing a company would be.

Here are a few points to bear in mind when dealing with scaling-up:

1. A different frontline:

As a start-up, the frontline battle is creating the product and making sure that there is a fit in the market. And it is a market with fewer customers. If one or two customers have problems, your response time is quick. Imagine 25,000 customers or 50,000. What about one million? How many will come to you with problems that you need to solve? Your frontline has now shifted to attending to customer issues and ensuring that your other customers remain satisfied. Your response time will not be that quick anymore.

2. The right people:

Your HR process is beefed-up, right? Make sure that you hire the right talent. These are, preferably, people who fit well with the company’s plan for the future, share the vision, and have some experience in scaling up as well. And it’s not just internal people that you have to get right. You need to find the right partner in terms of vendors and suppliers, as well. Cheaper services shouldn’t be your only criteria for partnering up with a vendor or supplier.

3. Excellence and accountability:

Success must be far-reaching within the organization. For excellence to permeate the entire organization, every unit, every leaders and foot soldiers must learn accountability. This accountability is the one that creates that buzz, which puts pressure on entities that are slacking. “Hey, you! You need to perform up to standards!” is the message.

You can add more things to this list, like the need to be wary about competing on price or over-focusing on marketing. But these three points will help you plant your feet on the ground more stably and be ready to face the challenges of scaling up.

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Mashum Mollah

Mashum Mollah is an entrepreneur, founder and CEO at Viacon, a digital marketing agency that drive visibility, engagement, and proven results. He blogs at

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