If you consider what sets companies like eBay, Alibaba, Netflix, Google, Starbucks, Apple, Cisco and Dell apart from other companies, their ability to continuously innovate and create high growth will probably come high on your list.
So should the fact they’ve all successfully transitioned from start up to scale up status without losing their ability to be dynamic and entrepreneurial.
Then there’s the fact they’ve helped create thousands of full-time and part-time jobs throughout the world. Twenty-three-year-old eBay, for example, employs 14,100 full- and part-time employees while Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc. has 88,100 full-time employees.
In his book, Scale Up!, the CFO Center’s Chairman Colin Mills defines scale ups as companies which have grown by 20% a year for a minimum of three years and which started the three year period with a minimum of 10 employees.
Scale ups disrupt and revolutionize entire industries, according to a Deloitte & THNK report. “They embody ingenuity, innovation, and foresight,” its authors concluded after studying 400,000 enterprises worldwide.
There’s a common misconception that only start ups can be innovative, dynamic and entrepreneurial. Yet as scale ups like Google and Alibaba illustrate, that’s far from the case.
Perhaps start ups attract more attention because there’s so many of them: it’s estimated that there are 300 million start ups globally. By comparison, only a tiny fraction of start ups ever survive long enough to make the transition to scale up, according to the authors of the Deloitte report.
“Our research shows that the chances of a new enterprise to ascend as a scale up are around 0.5%, which means that only 1 out of 200 surviving new enterprises will become a scale up. ‘Unicorns’ make up the even smaller subset of scale ups; only 104 start ups are valued over $1 billion.”
Those companies that do become scale ups help to boost local, national and international economies. They provide direct, ongoing employment and that, in turn, creates more consumer spending which in turn stimulates the economy and expands the tax base.
Or as business guru and venture capitalist Daniel Isenberg says in Scale Up!, “One venture that grows to 100 people in five years is probably more beneficial to entrepreneurs, shareholders, employees and governments alike, than 50 which stagnate at two years.”
Contrary to what many policymakers believe, start ups don’t help economies to flourish or cause per capita income to rise.
“The relationship between per capita income and entrepreneurial activity is generally negative, rather than positive as is often believed,” wrote Scott Shane, Professor at Case Western Reserve University, in Entrepreneur magazine. He referenced a Gallup Organization survey which compared per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) with the fraction of the population that reported being self-employed in 135 countries. It showed that the self-employed fraction had a negative linear relationship with the log of GDP.
“That is, self-employment rates are lower in rich countries than in poor ones.”
But growing a company past the start up phase is not without its share of challenges, whether they are related to employees, sales and marketing, operations, administration, or finance. Most importantly, if growing companies don’t have the right infrastructure to support their expanded operations, those challenges can become increasingly severe.
“While on paper, they may have the revenue, the manufacturing base or customer reach of a substantial business, the culture, the controls, the processes, the personnel and the leadership remain those of a much smaller business that they were a short time before,” says Mills in Scale Up!.
“Worse, they haven’t yet accumulated the resources to build and maintain that infrastructure.”
If the situation is not resolved, the business will outrun itself (cash reserves will dwindle as it tries to meet the expanded demands) or get stuck (as the owner and employees find themselves unable to cope with the problems).
But if you revise your business model, you can overcome these challenges or even avoid them altogether.
“You need to consider your whole business model, because if you have a terrible business model, then the last thing you want to do is to start scaling it,” says Mills.
The CFO Center’s part-time CFOs help clients revise their business model using a framework known as the ’12 Box’ approach.
It has three levels:
- Business Support
This refers to finance operations and focuses on two key aspects: cash and profitability. There are four boxes: Cash Flow Management and Profit Improvement (which generate money), and Internal Systems and Reporting (which generate time for management).
This involves your finance strategy: how are you going to finance the business to achieve future cash and profits? The four boxes in this section cover: Risk Assessment, Strategic Funding, Strategic Activities and Exit Planning, and an Implementation Timetable.
This involves crucial tasks such as compliance, tax planning and legal issues, banking relationships and outsourcing. In the case of The CFO Center’s CFOs they don’t carry out the tasks but instead, manage the work on a client’s behalf. They’ve built relationships with the right people in each country where they operate so that they can connect clients with the right supplier at the right cost when they need it, and then manage the work on their behalf.
Take the F Score: Find Your Future Challenge Areas
To help you identify which one of these 12 areas is a potential current or future pain point for your business, the CFO Center has created a quick assessment form known as the ‘F Score’. (It will only take nine minutes to complete.)
The F Score features a series of questions built around the 12 Boxes, designed to identify your areas of strength and those which represent a gap. When you’ve completed the questions, you’ll receive an eight-page report which will reveal your current or future challenges. It will not only rate the performance of your company’s finance function but also uncover untapped opportunities for non-linear growth.
To discover how the CFO Center will help your company to scale up, please call us now on 800 919 4022 or contact us here.
Do you have a burning question about any of the following:
- Cash flow management
- Profit improvement
- Exit planning
- Getting the most from your bank?
Book now for your complimentary 30-minute finance breakthrough session with one of our part-time CFOs. Get the answers you need to scale up your business.
If you’ve got just one finance-related question and you’d like us to send it across to our team of top CFOs, please let us know, and we’ll get back to you within 24 hours.
 ‘EBAY-Number of Employees’, Macro Axis, www.macroaxis.com/invest/ratio/EBAY–Number-of-Employees
 ‘Number of full-time Alphabet employees from 2007 to 2017’, Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/273744/number-of-full-time-google-employees/
 ‘SCALE-UP: THE EXPERIENCE GAME’, van Dijik, Menno (THNK), Kruit, Jan Dirk (THNK), Mogenddorff, Gideon, Mogendorff, Scheper, Wim (Deloitte), THNK & Deloitte, July 2015
 ‘What Startups Need To Scale Up’, Gaskell, Adi, Forbes, www.forbes.com, May 30, 2018
 ‘Scale Up! How to Take Your Business to The Next Level Without Losing Control and Running Out of Cash’, Mills, Colin, BrightFlame Books, www.brightflamebooks.com, 2016
 ‘Entrepreneurship Doesn’t Cause Per-Capita Income Growth’, Shane, Scott, Entrepreneur, www.entrepreneur.com, September 23, 2014