Aiyo! How do we scale ?
Aiyo has made it into the Oxford English dictionary and is the equivalent of the phrases 'Oh dear!' and 'Oh no'! Here's what the dictionary says ...
(In southern India and Sri Lanka) used to express distress, regret, or grief.‘aiyo, why do things like this always happen to me?’
In recent years, especially after the entrepreneurship boom began, we always keep hearing about how closely 'scale' is related to not only growth but about remaining in business. Most business ventures seem to be about volume and reach. Hence, not a surprise I suppose. It is relatively easy to get started and get to a certain moderate size, but sustained growth continues to stump everyone across industry and domains. Especially in an environment where disruptions are the order of the day. I have different views about this. From my own perspective considering my little initiatives which were not about scaling at all - more of chasing a dream of doing simple things and keeping it sustainable - versus from the point of view of many others for whom scale has been everything.
During the past few days, as I reflected on this while preparing for an upcoming interaction with the core team of an engineering organisation faced with the prospects of scaling, I put myself into their shoes. "Aiyo, how do we grow from here?!!" was the question that popped up. And so did a small frame-work of how to structure my thinking to come up with a possible set of areas to focus on - the AIYO framework. It is all about taking stock, identifying the top areas to focus on and figuring out how to address them. I also realised that this line of thinking will also work on an individual level in terms of self-development. So here goes!
A = Ability
What is our ability to scale? Can we plan and execute better and quicker ? Can we learn on-the-go and do it fast enough to keep pace with external expectations? Can we work well across teams and within? How well are we able to coordinate with our extended teams of vendors and other players critical to our success? Do we have the ability to define tasks and delegate them well enough? - after all teams will have to grow! Are we good with adapting to changes in external variables? And the list of questions can go on.
I = Infrastructure
Are we geared up to scale? Space, required equipment/tools, are people required to handle various functions coming on board fast enough? Processes and key metrics (I'd throw it in this bucket as opposed to under Ability), approvals required, funds .... basically anything which is absolutely necessary for us to carry out operations as we keep growing. Just a great idea is not enough.
Y = Yearning
Key factor in my opinion. Without a strong desire to scale, inspite of everything else being there, it is not going to happen. And, it is not enough if only the founder has a strong yearning. The entire core team needs to feel it and draw motivation from it. The hunger has to be experienced by all key team members else, trying to scale can create a lot of stress fractures within the organisation.
O = Opportunity
Last but not the least! Unless we are able to identify and map what we have to offer to the right opportunities (sometimes we have to pivot as needed!), scale will remain a desire. Is the pie big enough? If yes, is the market crowded with players offering the same thing? How are we different? If we are pioneers and have seen early success with our offerings, are we good enough to grow and capture the market quickly? Is there a strong need for our product/service? Do we understand our customer base well enough? What about awareness and visibility to what we do?
Well, a lot of these may be very obvious to many. But to some, it is not so. I've come across people quitting jobs to pursue a dream without even a semblance of a business plan, not even a back-of-the-envelope strategy. Going back to the drawing board is important each time we hit a planned milestone. To review and look at how to move up to the next stage without dropping whatever is on the plate already. It is all about maximising potential.
So go ahead. Think of using a fun framework like this or anything which suits you and your team during the next offsite huddle to discuss strategy. And, if you need some help from someone with an external un-biased perspective to help facilitate this discussion, my team and I would be happy to pitch in!
Note: AltEd is a new initiative I've been focussing on since early this year. An initiative driven with the help of an extended team of good buddies of mine, each with experience in varied areas. Sharing based on wisdom gained - not by attending seminars, trainings or from books with fancy quotes - but from hands-on experience of having seen-and-done-it before!
We continue to learn as we go along …