Business Growth Journey – The Story So Far

25th January 2017

Business Growth Journey – The Story So Far | Clean Space Blog

Back in February 2016 I decided to start writing this monthly blog, sharing the lessons I’m learning as The Clean Space scales up to £10m turnover and beyond.

It was way back in 2013 when I realised The Clean Space had moved from being a start-up business and had entered into the scale-up growth phase.A scale-up business is simply one that has turnover growing faster than costs.  In practice, that means the business is past the point of shoving loads of cost in to get things moving.  Typically, it has established its business model, proven it works and is now growing market share.

They are important businesses to the economy.  The Scale-up Institute estimates that scale-ups have the potential to generate 150,000 new jobs by 2034 contributing £225bn to UK GDP in the process.

Everything must change to succeed in this scale-up phase.  It demands new leadership styles, better structure and governance, new processes and procedures and new priorities.  It often needs new people and greater empowerment of those people.  It requires letting go.

But back in 2013, when I was trying to figure out how to scale, I looked around for material to help me.  I wanted to read as much as I could on the subject.  But there was very little.  Loads on how to start a business, but not much on how to scale one.

So I launched this blog.  Partly to force me to consolidate and capture my learning.  But also to hopefully help someone else out there.

Outlined below is a summary of each of the blogs I’ve written so far.  Take a look and let me know what you think.  And if you’d like to subscribe to the future blogs you can do so here.

2016 Review  

In my first post I asked, ‘is your business starting to stall?’  A business stalling is often a sign that something fundamental needs to change.  It describes how I knew I’d hit the scale-up phase but was failing to make the necessary changes.  It set the scene for the lessons I was about to learn.

In April, I focused on culture and values.  A lot of start-ups have a great culture but as they grow they often lose it.  Successful scales ups don’t.  This post shares how I messed it up first time around but learned, in my second attempt, to make our company values live and breathe.

In May, after a pretty shitty month, I was ready to pack it all in.  Sell up and move to Iceland.  But I didn’t.  I never do.  I believe the ability to doggedly keep going when other would have quit is one of the key attributes of successful entrepreneurs.  This month’s post shares how I do it.

In June, I wondered whether an entrepreneurial leopard can change its spots.  Leading a scale-up is a totally different job to leading a start-up.  Changing myself has been the hardest thing I’ve had to do in my entire career.  Essentially, it requires letting go which doesn’t come naturally to control freak entrepreneurs like me.  The post shares a framework I use for managing change – including changing myself.

learning from the old ways to create a new way

In July, I was a bit more specific about how those entrepreneurial leopard spots have changed.  Specifically, how my role as leader of the business has changed and what it has meant for my team.

In August, continuing on the theme of change, I zoomed in on leadership.  That elusive skill that all businesses need.  I described how my leadership style needed to evolve as my role changed.  A start-up leader is a very different beast to a scale-up leader.  In this post I explained the two styles I personally use in each phase.

In September, in a slight detour from talking about scaling, I explained why the Voluntary Living Wage is crucial to our business.  After George Osborne had introduced his new ‘National Living Wage’, I tried to remove some of the confusion between his new living wage and the one that’s been around for 15 years now known as the ‘Voluntary Living Wage’.  I’ve always been a supporter of the Voluntary Living Wage and I explained why I believe paying people properly is crucial for all businesses.

In October, the business suffered a significant blow.  We lost one of our biggest clients.  That event was painful and hit the business hard.  But (just like in the gym) it’s no pain, no gain in business.  I wrote about how that painful loss made my business stronger.

In November, I focussed on governance – a topic I had previously thought was only applicable to big corporates.  But I realised a lot of the changes I had made to scale-up were really about installing better governance in the business.  And how, in fact, every business needs governance.  In this post, I share the details of the steps I took.

To close the year in December, I wrote about how giving my team a sense of purpose has helped my business to growA lot of good businesses talk about culture and values (the ‘how’) but not many of them talk about the ‘why’.  At The Clean Space, we’ve always had a strong purpose for being – to change the way cleaners are treated in the industry.  I believe that purpose has helped me recruit and retain better people and drives those people every day.  But as the business started to scale we were losing sight of that purpose.  So we decided to refocus on it.  In my final post of the year I explained the steps we took to identify, articulate and communicate our purpose.

Looking forward

As I sit here writing this summary of the year, it really brings it home to me how far we’ve come in 2016.  Nowadays a year goes by in the blink of an eye but taking the time to reflect has made me realise a lot gets done.  I’m sure 2017 will be no different and I’ll continue to share the learnings as we go.

If you’d like to read about the lessons I continue to learn then you can subscribe here.

Good luck for your year ahead.

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