Focusing on the big picture is key for scaling successfully
If you’re accomplishing goals, have a strong cash flow and regularly get great feedback, it might be time to scale up the business.
Assess, research and plan
Before scaling up, it’s crucial to make an honest assessment of whether your business has the capacity to grow and if the demand is there.
For Woky Ko, the signs were clear. The Asian restaurant’s popularity soared after opening and its turnover doubled in one year. Since launching three new restaurants, the business is turning over £1.2m in under five years.
According to director Larkin Cen, scaling up your business starts with a thorough understanding of your finances.
You need to be clear on the cost of scaling and be confident that the business can afford it. Plan within your means and leave some money aside to absorb any mistakes along the way.
Taking your time to do research is also vital. Competitor research is important to ensure you don’t expand into a saturated market and understanding your customer is key to determining if there is demand for expansion.
“Do your homework before scaling. The reality is a lot of the time you learn from your mistakes, but that can be expensive. Plan within your means and spend carefully. If you’re confident that your business can cope, the time is right,” Larkin said.
“Business friends who operate in the industry are a valuable source of advice, especially those who have done similar things."
Larkin Cen, director, Woky Ko
Take advice from your network
Seeking advice before scaling up was crucial for Woky Ko. Larkin believes business owners should never be afraid to ask for advice because people are usually happy to help.
“I ask people all the time. In the first instance, I have debates with my team. From junior chefs to senior staff, I’ll ask what they think of a potential location and the reasons why they think it will work or fail. My business partner is a great sounding board too,” he said.
“Business friends who operate in the industry are a valuable source of advice, especially those who have done similar things. It’s also very useful to speak to people with local knowledge.”
While taking broad advice is essential, it’s also important to build your own picture.
“Everybody is right in their own way as it’s all about perspective. But their advice doesn’t always relate to me. It’s down to you to extract the relevant knowledge,” he said.
Get the right people to standardise
It’s easy to standardise with a small operation. But as you expand, keeping the essence of what makes your business great gets harder.
For Woky Ko, the key to standardising the process is having the right staff in place, getting them to specialise and implementing clear and repeatable processes.
“We control that quality over all the sites by employing the right people. What I’ve found successful is getting people to specialise in things and being really clear about what I want them to execute. All I need to do is find competent people, give them a task and get them to nail it,” Larkin said.
Step back and see the big picture
One of the biggest lessons Larkin learned when scaling his business was the importance of working on the business, rather than in it.
In the early days, he worked 14 hours, seven days per week, running the business by day and working in the kitchen every night. But as the business expanded, he had to let go.
Larkin’s approach to hiring – employing the right people and getting them to specialise in specific things – helped with this process. Rather than spreading people across the business, he could trust that everyone would do their own tasks well.
Once he’d built a team who worked to a high standard and understood his expectations, it was easier not to get caught up in the day-to-day of the business.
“As the business has grown, I’ve needed to step back and focus on the big picture. My role is ultimately to make high-quality big decisions. In order to do that I had to let go of some of the day-to-day stuff,” Larkin said.
As part of this shift, Larkin also hired a bookkeeper to manage the finances, a time-consuming job that he used to undertake.
“Getting somebody to help with the day-to-day bookkeeping has freed up my time to run the business. We’re all capable of bookkeeping but there aren’t enough hours in the day,” he said.
location: South West (England)
business size: 10-49 People
business type: Hospitality & tourism
Top three takeaways
Before scaling up, you need to make an honest assessment of whether your business has the capacity to grow and if the demand is there.
As your business grows, it’s important to step back from day-to-day tasks and focus on making high-quality big decisions.
The key to standardising is having the right staff in place, getting them to specialise and implementing clear and repeatable processes.