They say one of the reasons a startup fails comes from scaling the wrong way.
When it comes to running a business, there are times when expanding becomes an issue. Various questions come to mind such as the amount of expenditure needed to expand, the risks that comes with the big decision of scaling up, and so forth.
At the Global Entrepreneurship Community 2016, a session was held surrounding the theme of “Scaling To Success”. The panel consisted of prolific names in the local startup scene including Joel Neoh (KFIT), Jaygan Fu Ponnudurai (Grab) and Azran Rani (iflix). Moderated by Jessica Macias (Leadapreneur), there was an in-depth discussion regarding scaling.
Here are 7 tips given by the panel on the do’s and don’ts as well as expectations when it comes to scaling in your business.
1) There are NO shortcuts when it comes to hiring.
A lot of startups fear the idea of expanding because they know a lot of expenditure will be spent.
Azran says that startups shouldn’t feel this way. Instead, he advised startups to put the same amount of intensity, focus and resources on recruiting as they’d do for marketing.
“For every 1 person that comes in, you’re going through 50 to 100 CVs or profiles. You need that sheer volume to get the right people. That requires a lot of time, energy and effort. There are no shortcuts to that,” said Azran.
He goes on to say that having money is the main signaling mechanism that you need to boost up the hiring rate.
It’s always best to hire ahead of the curve because if not, you’re stuck in a vicious cycle and will never get to realise any opportunities. So startups need to know when to be brave when placing big bets upfront.
2) There is NO reason to fear failure.
One main reason of a startup’s death is premature scaling, which has led to many entrepreneurs being confused on what are the right indicators they should look out for when it comes to knowing when to scale.
Joel believes that the situation is dependent and that every entrepreneur is different. So there’s no clear guideline on when exactly is the right moment. However, he noted that failure should not be something startups need to fear.
“My advice is always the opposite. I always tell people to not be afraid of failure because a lot of the time, you won’t know until you try. The key to failure is sticking to it for too long. It’s not about trying something new and then failing because what you manage to learn from those failures can already be implemented for your next step,” said Joel.
He said that this rapid trial and error movement is possibly the best teaching method for startups who are trailblazing as they will never know what’s properly going to work until it is done. So they need to be brave and handle these risks.
3) There is NO rest for those who want to succeed.
One thing Joel mentioned was how every startup started with an idea. The idea is meant to address a problem to which they have provided a solution. Jaygan shared this sentiment by saying that was how MyTeksi first kicked off when they realised how horrible the taxi system was in Malaysia.
Their venture proved to be successful as Grab is continuously known as one of the more successful ride-hailing services in Malaysia to date.
However, that idea is not exactly unique.
The taxi industry is considered quite big so even if Grab has now been running for awhile, there is no rest allowed. Competition pops up every few seconds not only locally but internationally as well. Just because you have a good product with great market value doesn’t mean that you’re done for the day. You have to keep innovating yourself.
“Once you solve a problem, you don’t rest on your laurels because someone out there will come and disrupt you. The point here is when you come out with a good product, don’t rest,” said Jaygan.
4) There is NO one segment.
Startups often find get frustrated when they’re faced with the difficulties of a competitive life.
Azran highlighted that frustration only comes when you limit opportunities. He personally focuses on understanding the needs of customers from different economic levels or affordability because their wants and needs are very different.
Instead being worried about big industry players who already have most of the customers, Azran suggested starting with blank sheet of paper. From there, understand the needs of a different demographic and tailor your product to meet those needs. Do it at a lower price point to stimulate a new market.
“Others may be serving a certain price point so don’t follow them. We found out people got frustrated that there’s only one choice, like paying RM100 for TV content that has ads and is confined in a set-up box.
So we gave them another option of TV content with no ads and can be watched anytime and anywhere at a fraction of the cost. That’s essentially how iFlix started,” said Azran.
Although there may be one segment that’s been adequately served by an incumbent, that doesn’t mean they cater to everyone. The field is big enough for you to be able to find a demographic you can understand and relate to.
“Find out their issues and how they make their decisions, then you can come up with a service or solution that is specifically tailored towards that segment. This will cut down your worries by a tenfold,” said Azran.
5) There is NO control over macro situations.
Sometimes, there are situations that a lot of startups can’t control. It happens to any business, so it’s how you handle the situation that’s important.
Azran shared his philosophy of not worrying about things that can’t be controlled because what startups need to remember is that these situations usually affect and impact everyone, including your competitors. As long as you can figure out how to deal with the situation better than your competitors, you’ll always come out ahead.
“An example now would be the drop in currency. Instead of the solution being you thinking about how to hedge currency positions, you should figure out how to come out of this better on a relative basis than your competitors so you gain an advantageous position at the end of the situation,” said Azran.
Macro-challenges are something usually out of everyone’s control so there’s no point in spending too much time being frustrated at things such as that. So focus more on coming up with the next idea to make the best out of those circumstances.
6) There are NO limitations unless you set them yourself.
When asked what advice they would give to their own selves during the earlier stages of their venture, Jaygan shared that he wouldn’t change anything and to just focus on being himself.
“I’d say to maybe understand the business model a bit better but at the end, I would still stand on being yourself and not being afraid to fail. Because once you learn things the fast way, everything else will set in the same motion,” said Jaygan.
Joel wanted to share the same advice from Oprah Winfrey that he has been following since he was 19 years old which was to be comfortable in uncertainty.
“When you’re a startup and become comfortable in all those changes, that’s the best way for you to learn no matter if you’re an employee or founder. Being comfortable in changes brings more opportunities so you learn the most and come out on top as a business or an individual,” said Joel.
Azran compared it to his experience as an triathlon enthusiast, saying that it is physically true how when you think you’ve given your all and your body wants to call it quits, you have only reached 40% of your total capacity.
“Often times, our minds gives up much faster in terms of the will to carry on then your physical ability. So even in the darkest of times, you should push through. I’ve been in the situation where I’ve completely run out of cash, not able to pay payroll, having employees curse at me, closing a business and retrenching over 400 people. But it’s not game over. Just keep going on because there’s always a next step,” said Azran.
Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC) aims to build a Sustainable Entrepreneurship Ecosystem by catalysing creativity & innovation for long term nation impact. Organised by MaGIC, the first Global Entrepreneurship Community(GECommunity) event, #GECommunity2016 was held on the 8th and 9th of December 2016. You can follow MaGIC on Instagram and Twitter for live feeds and updates of the event:@magic_cyberjaya
Feature Image Credit: GECommunity