Scaling up a microbusiness | 5 top tips

Masha Gribova
Brand Manager
02 April 2021
3 minute read

Infrastructure and the power of ‘why?’: Your 2021 action plan

Chances are, you’re working for or running a micro business. According to 2020 findings from Merchant Savvy, over 95% of UK businesses employ fewer than 10 people – by most definitions, this makes them micro. What takes these startups to the scale-up stage? Monzo and Deliveroo were micro once upon a time, but how did they scale into the massive brand names they are today?

There are in fact 1.155 million micro businesses in the UK right now. A large number are construction sector firms, but other big hitters are services – from legal to veterinary – and retail. So it’s a broad playing field and rich with case studies for success.

I love this quote from David Howell in Forbes, which really shouts out for agility, testing and self determination – all key in the creation of a high growth small business (HGSB).

“The art of the micro business is the fact you can start with low cost and risk. It’s up to you how fast you grow, as you have the control.”

Here are five more focus areas, if you’re looking to scale your brilliant micro business.

1. Stop, look and listen

You don’t need to go back to the drawing board here. If you’re preparing to scale your micro business you’re likely doing great year-on-year – it’s more a case of revisiting your original value proposition, and being clear on why you can and should get bigger. Is there still a gap in the market, alongside what you’re currently offering? Why do people need more of what you have to offer?

Take the time now to pause, research and ask some tough questions. Many micro businesses suit being ‘micro’ – it often amplifies the brand and allows you to focus on other things like product development – but if you’re onto something big and looking to fly, these next actions can be pivotal.

2. Look at your processes

Yes, process can be a creative mood killer. But if you’re sailing along now, knowing operations could be tighter, it’s time to look at the nuts and bolts of how your business runs. One of the biggest dangers for scaleups is running with a big order or increasing production, but with a back-end that’s no longer fit for purpose.

Big-hitting wellness brand Deliciously Ella soft-launched a food-to-order business line before opening the real thing, and immediately crashed the delivery app. With customers waiting for food and drivers queuing outside their tiny startup kitchen, the brand powered through, but bringing good process with you will pay off, as you welcome new customers.

3. Learn from competitors

From business model to marketing strategy, competitors can teach you a lot. In some cases, it even pays to approach them directly, asking for guidance with an eye on future partnerships. Two micro breweries, for example, could swap notes and run cross-promotions.

In other scenarios, cosying up with a competitor isn’t appropriate. But you can still learn from their success and take notes on tools and tactics. Getting a sense of their supply chain and employee structure could be a good place to start.

4. Look at early stage funding

Angel investors, venture capitalists and incubator options, plus government-backed loans and personal funding – there are hundreds of financing platforms to look into, but only a few will be the right fit for your micro business.

Run though our early stage funding how-to, startup funding – what happens when and guide to finding investors for the basic starting points.

5. Invest in infrastructure

One in three high growth small businesses cite digital infrastructure as a primary constraint on business growth, according to a 2018 report from the Octopus investment group. Speak to your network, neighbours and business contacts. If they’re running a similar enterprise, what IT set-up do they rate? Could they recommend a specific payment system?

Invest now in the systems that will funnel your increasing sales and customers. The last thing you want when scaling up is off-putting, clunky payments and a booking system that crashes.

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