Lessons in scale for the entrepreneurial generation

Generation Z is poised to become the most entrepreneurial generation. They are self-starters who are not afraid to take control of their careers. While I may not quite be a member of Gen Z, I was in my twenties when I managed my first large team and can relate to the challenges of starting a new business. The reality is that almost anyone can start an enterprise, but the real skill is being able to make it scale.

Earlier this year, we conducted some research to understand the challenges stopping small medium enterprises from growing. Of the 1,000 business owners surveyed, the most significant barriers to expansion were financing, lack of experience and red tape, meaning that only 22 per cent of companies had plans to expand internationally in the next two years. In the UK in particular, small medium enterprises are the backbone of the economy, making up 99 per cent of all private sector business, so it is vital that business owners feel supported and encouraged to grow. Here are some lessons in scale from a group of inspiring and successful entrepreneurs.

Lesson 1: Patience

“Do not be tempted to jump the gun. Patience truly pays.” Alexis Cuddyre, VP of Brand & Creative at ADAY

In order to reach their full potential, SMBs should consider taking time to identify their own blind spots. It’s only after examining these pivotal moments that you can start to address the challenges and find a moment when everything comes together – a decision or agreement that changes everything – the start of something.

Lesson 2: Outsource

“Focus on what you do best, and outsource the rest.” Emma Jones MBE, Founder of Enterprise Nation

A strong relationship with investors can unlock potential for growth as their guidance can be critical. Only a minority (37 per cent) of SMBs have accepted outside investment, and of these, half believed it to have changed the direction of their business. Around two in every five SMB owners wished they’d had either more finance or digital skills to help them to grow. By making the creation and communication of information and agreements easy, it keeps investors and other early supporters closer to the processes, making it easier for them to help.

Lesson 3: Delegate

“Have the strength of your conviction.” John Treharne, Founder and former CEO of The Gym Group

Hand in hand with growth comes the ability to delegate. Effective leadership begins with developing other leaders within the business who can help to make it a success. Most SMBs are getting it right, with 83 per cent saying they could trust their teams to run the ship without them. Hiring right, attracting the best skill sets for the best rewards and agreeing roles and responsibilities with those people will help the business to grow. Being a market leader can be as important as showing team leadership in smaller companies. It’s a lot to learn on the go, but it’s part of the journey to making it.

Lesson 4: Adapt

“Build for the future, not for the present.” Laurent Guyot, CFO of Qwil Messenger

Countless changes are happening around us every day that could be the deciding factors in the success of a fledgling business. Young entrepreneurs are now faced with changes in national spending, in customer preferences and of course, Brexit. We need the right technologies and the right people to be able to address this. 45 per cent of SMB’s say their business has turned out substantially different from their first vision. This means we need to invest in technology that can help create an adaptable business. DocuSign has enabled Qwil Messenger customers to significantly accelerate the time it takes for them to complete contracts and deploy its chat service, within 10 minutes — anywhere in the world and this adaptability is key.

When looking to scale a business, a focus on patience, outsourcing, trust and adaptability are key. Accepting help from outside investors can be a learning experience, especially if this is the first business experience that you are venturing into. But also empowering colleagues to be leaders and investing in adaptability can make all of the difference.

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