Scaleups: A growing sense of ambition

Select Medical has embarked on a high-speed journey which has growth as its destination.

It is one of an increasing number of Lancashire businesses working to scaleup and in 12 months a “clearly defined strategy” delivered it 30 per cent growth in staff numbers and revenues.

Although the concept isn’t new, scaleup businesses have become something of a hot topic in recent years. As Lancashire and the UK look to work their way out of the Covid-19 pandemic there is even more focus on them and their role in the economy.

By definition, scaleups are enterprises with an average annualised growth in employees or turnover that is greater than 20 per cent a year, over a three-year period.

Amin Vepari, business finance and scaleup lead at Lancashire County Council, works with businesses across the county to support them as they look to reach the next stage in their development.

He says: “Put simply, scaleup is a distinct phase of company growth. It’s a company that has achieved a lot, had some impressive success and is ready to take it to the next level.

“Having grown to a certain size, a scaleup is ready to use its proven success to scale and grow the company significantly.

“The scaleup phase is typically the quickest and most significant stage of growth, and one that can bring the most challenges.”

Select Medical is a Blackburn-based manufacturer specialising in support surfaces for pressure care and ulcer prevention for the healthcare sector.

Amin Kamaluddin, strategy consultant at the business, says that in its bid to scaleup it made significant investment in its people, process and IT systems.

It has also invested in a “satellite hub” in the midlands to support customers nationally.

Impressive moves, but how did the business and its management know it was ready to scale? Amin says: “Since our inception in 2001, we have been on an incredible journey making great progress and achieving key goals.

“We arrived at a point where we felt we had achieved most of our aspirational targets and it was the right time to reflect and set new 10-year goals to ensure we continued to strive for growth.

“Focus has been placed on developing an innovative range of products and building the appropriate infrastructure: teams, processes and systems. All part of a clear strategy. With a firm foundation in place, we believe we are ready to scaleup.”

Amin says having a clear strategy and leadership is vital for businesses looking to achieve rapid growth. Knowing what areas to focus on, how to assign and utilise resources, where are the gaps and what are the threats are all captured in a comprehensive strategy.

There are undoubtedly lessons to be learnt along the way “as there is no such thing as failure as long as you learn from it”, he explains. “Often the fear of failure can paralyse and hold people back from making a move.

“The right balance of passion, determination and planning can result in a successful formula for delivering rapid growth. There will inevitably be setbacks but having belief and keeping laser focused is important.”

He also advises businesses looking to embark on their scaleup journey to seek out all the help that is available, adding: “You are not a one-person team. You must be open to seeking support from others be that external funding or specialists in certain roles. You can’t do it all by yourself.

“Finally, do not compromise or lose your DNA. Your organisational culture is at the very heart of your success. Protect it as you scaleup.”

Leon Calverley is managing director of Burnley-based Door4. The company has grown from a freelance web designer in 2000 to an agency supporting national clients.

Looking at the scaleup journey it embarked on, he says: “A solid management team is crucial. You can’t scale if you’re too involved in the detail of your business.”

He adds: “Have a plan. Growth rarely just happens. It’s the result of preparedness, plus the effort to see through that plan. And perhaps a little opportunity and good fortune along the way.”

Amin Vepari also stresses that support is vital if businesses are to have a successful scaleup journey.

In Lancashire, the work is championed and delivered by the Two Zero programme he heads. It was founded in 2019 by the county council to support companies aspiring to hit that 20 per cent year-on-year turnover target.

He says: “While it is common knowledge that startups require a lot of support and advice, a common misconception about scaleups is that due to their impressive level of success and increased exposure they know it all and don’t need any help.”

“There are many brilliant local and national resources for startups to find help, but once a company reaches that critical point of scaling, they might find their support options become more limited.”

Connecting with people who are experiencing the same challenges becomes “invaluable” he adds, advising businesses to create an empowering peer network.

He adds: “It not only makes business sense, but it also can be a much-needed source of emotional support and reassurance for high-achieving founders and executives during a period of massive change.”

He also believes scaleups will play a major part in Lancashire’s recovery plans post-Covid, explaining: “Central to this recovery and redefining Lancashire is how we support our scaleups to further grow

“In turn their contribution to the county's economy can spur that much needed belief, positivity and pave the way for others to follow.”

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