Scaling Ventures: Developing the Playbook for Profitable Growth

Program Overview

Growing a business can be a complex challenge that touches every area of the firm, presenting obstacles that test even highly experienced leaders. Scaling Ventures: Developing the Playbook for Profitable Growth takes a holistic view of the process, incorporating strategy, finance, and leadership. These three pivotal elements, and how they work together to create a viable plan for growth, form the foundation of the program.

Scaling Ventures offers solutions to the critical challenges faced by growing companies, and will show you how to put your learning directly into practice. By the end of the program, you will know how to determine which approach to growth is most viable for your organization, transition for that growth, and be able to communicate an action plan that addresses strategic, financial, and leadership concerns.

Academic Director Gad Allon says Scaling Ventures: Developing the Playbook for Profitable Growth provides solutions to the critical challenges faced by growing companies.

Academic Director Gad Allon says Scaling Ventures: Developing the Playbook for Profitable Growth provides solutions to the critical challenges faced by growing companies.

Program Experience

The Playbook for Growth: This program will help you determine whether the timing is right for your organization to grow.

Highlights and Key Outcomes

In Scaling Ventures you will:

  • Determine whether or not your company’s existing operational structure and capabilities are ready to scale
  • Learn how to stress test current organizational structure and processes to discover readiness to grow
  • Identify and measure the key performance indicators needed for scaling
  • Create a financially viable, scalable strategic plan
  • Discover how to drive innovation to stimulate growth
  • Understand the capital requirements needed to grow and how to attain them
  • Balance people and processes to achieve successful strategy execution
  • Benefit from a webinar after the program is over to integrate the learning

Experience and Impact

Scaling Ventures takes you from start to finish as you explore whether the timing is right for your organization and then determine how to move forward by creating an actionable plan. Through this program you will discover the key challenges firms face when trying to scale, including the relationship between people and processes, and move from tactical, short-term opportunistic thinking to a long-term focused vision.

Scaling Ventures, which contains some curriculum from Wharton’s internationally recognized Scale School Workshop, will enable participants to tackle both sides of the growth coin — people and processes. Specifically, this program will help participants assess their firm’s current organizational structure and determine how to resolve the common tension that exists in growing companies between hiring people for skills or for cultural fit. This program will also reveal what type of organizational culture a company needs to have to grow and how to define the role of the company’s founder or owner/operator as the firm embarks on this new phase of growth.

People and Processes: This program will help participants assess their firm’s organizational structure.

The program’s cross-functional approach brings together the strategic, financial, and leadership concerns of expanding a business operations. You will consider whether your current strategy is scalable from both the execution and financial viewpoints, and also examine the risks inherent to your plan and analyze how to build the right portfolio of processes, assets, and people to address those risks.

Through case studies, a business simulation, and breakout sessions, you will analyze your organization and apply new tools during each day of the program. Then in small discussion groups, you will develop an actionable plan to scale your organization.

Session topics include:

  • Avoiding Explosions: Building and Leading Successful Teams
  • Balancing People and Processes
  • Metrics for Scaling
  • Managing Assets for Growth
  • Local to Global: Managing Global Networks (simulation)
  • Scaling through Innovation
  • Financing the Growing Business
  • Scaling Up Quality: Hiring, Leading, and Organizing for Success
  • Value Creation in Fast Growth Companies

Post-Program Webinar

Scaling Ventures: Developing the Playbook for Profitable Growth also includes a webinar conducted one month after the program ends to help participants integrate key learnings. Led by Professor Gad Allon, the program’s academic director, this one hour session allows participants to share the main achievements in implementing concepts and ideas from the course as well as the challenges participants faced implementing concepts. Bringing the cohort back together, this webinar reinforces the importance of peer support as well as faculty insights.

Who Should Attend

This program is ideally suited for company founders, C-suite executives, and other senior leaders who are responsible for accelerating growth. Participants may come from:

  • Entrepreneurial startups about to receive a massive infusion of investment capital
  • Large publicly traded companies looking to expand the operations of a new or revamped division
  • Privately held firms that previously moderated their growth but are now looking to significantly expand operations geographically or product-wise in order to attract new investment

Potential job titles and roles include:

  • Managing Director, Senior Director, Senior Vice President in large corporations
  • CEO, CFO, COO, president, general manager in mid-size enterprises
  • Founders or CEOs of rapidly growing, successful entrepreneurial ventures

The program’s content is relevant across numerous industries. Executives in the following industries will find the program’s content particularly valuable:

  • Banking and financial services
  • Information technology
  • Logistics and transportation
  • Manufacturing and consumer products
  • Pharmaceuticals and health care

Plan Your Stay

This program is held at the Steinberg Conference Center located on the University of Pennsylvania campus in Philadelphia. Learn more about planning your stay at Wharton’s Philadelphia campus.

Group Enrollment

To further leverage the value and impact of this program, we encourage companies to send cross-functional teams of executives to Wharton. We offer group enrollment benefits to companies sending four or more participants.


Gad Allon

Gad Allon, PhDSee Faculty Bio

Academic Director

Jeffrey A. Keswin Professor; Professor of Operations, Information, and Decisions; Director of the Jerome Fisher Program in Management & Technology, The Wharton School

Research Interests: Operations management and operations strategy

Ethan Mollick

Ethan Mollick, PhDSee Faculty Bio

Associate Professor of Management, The Wharton School

Research Interests: Entrepreneurial strategy, entrepreneurship in innovative industries

Karl Ulrich

Karl Ulrich, ScDSee Faculty Bio

CIBC Endowed Professor; Professor of Operations, Information and Decisions; Professor of Management; Vice Dean of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, The Wharton School

Research Interests: Environmental issues, product design and development, innovation

David Wessels

David Wessels, PhDSee Faculty Bio

Adjunct Professor of Finance, The Wharton School


I earned an MBA from Wharton in entrepreneurial management about seven years ago. Even if the Scaling Ventures course had just refreshed what I learned in my MBA, that would have been fine, but what I loved is that this was completely new. The professors weren’t just teaching the materials they teach their MBAs; the topics that were discussed, the curriculum, were truly focused on someone who was building a business and trying to scale it.

My company, Cotopaxi, is a digitally native outdoor gear retailer with the mission of inspiring adventure and moving people to do good. We use a percentage of revenues to support poverty alleviation, and we employ refugees.

Scaling Ventures allowed me to step away from the day-to-day of running my company and really reflect on what we're doing right and what we can do better. When I came back, I actually pulled in my entire executive team and shared some of the highlights from the class. We started looking more critically at areas where we’re getting the best return on capital, and we’ve made some changes based on that learning. It’s been really impactful.

One important lesson was that a lot of startups make the mistake of scaling without first going through an efficiency phase. I'm a huge believer in the concept that before you go scale, make sure that you build efficiency into the business. Another great takeaway was about hard growth versus easy growth. For example, instead of opening up a bunch of new stores — which is a relatively easy way to grow revenues but is not very capital efficient — figure out ways to make your existing stores more profitable. That goes straight to the bottom line as profit.

As a Wharton alum, there were some fun elements about being back. I already had an affinity for the school, and was very familiar with some of the Scaling Ventures professors: David Wessels, Karl Ulrich, Ethan Mollick. There were a few other Wharton alums in the class so we had an instant connection, which was great. I enjoyed being reconnected with this place that has had such a big impact on my professional career.

Gad Allon was just phenomenal. He did a great job of connecting with students. I've talked with him after the course, and he has reached out to the whole class by email a number of times. All the professors were world class, and the participants were a great mix of people running larger and smaller companies and family businesses.

I would recommend Scaling Ventures  highly to any entrepreneur who’s looking to scale their business. It was incredibly relevant and worth every minute of time I gave it. I've gone back to my notes from that class countless times, and my whole team has benefited from the lessons I learned in the course.” 

Davis SmithCEO, Cotopaxi

Scaling Ventures exceeded my expectations. That’s not just a slogan — it’s really true. It had a perfect blend for the variety of people who were there. I have a finance background — I’m a CPA with a master's in finance and business administration — and I really liked the finance part of the program. I thought it was spot on, world class. It was relevant whether you’re looking at it from an overall company perspective as a small startup or an established company, or from within a sales organization like mine.

At VMware Latin America I do strategy planning and operations and track sales performance. I’m an entrepreneur within a big company, in a way. I enrolled in Scaling Ventures because I’m always trying to find new frameworks and practical applications and to refresh principles that I haven’t used for a while.

The professors were amazing. It was a pleasure to have David Wessels teaching; I have his books. Gad Allon was also great. I was really pleased with the way the faculty delivered the content and how they conducted things in general, managing the intensity and mood of the class.

The concepts I found most valuable, that I’m going to keep using in my work, were decision trees, the cause and effect of metrics, tracking metrics related to actions, depicting metrics in a way that’s easy to understand, the importance of cash flow, and keeping in mind that you have to create value or you will destroy cash. Those concepts are powerful and they’re my bible. Hearing them again and refreshing them at Wharton was really amazing. I learned a lot from my classmates too, who were from very diverse business backgrounds — from a plastic surgeon to another executive who founded a large lending company in India.

I’ve taken courses at several universities and done postgraduate work, and Scaling Ventures was one of the best classes in terms of the balance of content, the depth, and the length of time. I’ve recommended it to my boss and another colleague. I’m considering taking another Wharton Executive Education course this year, probably in negotiations or corporate valuation.”

Gabriel Arbe Director of Operations, VMware Latin America

Our company is 21 years old and was started in the garage of John Pantanella, our founder and CEO today. We have experienced consistent growth over the past 20 years and now employ 85 people with offices in St. Louis, MO and Los Angeles, CA. We regularly evaluate the structure of our business to ensure it can support our future growth. Scaling Ventures offered a curriculum that focused on providing insights and strategies that were meaningful to our team.

I especially valued the personnel component of the course — attracting the right people, conducting a disciplined interviewing process, and supporting them with the right individual goals. As a result, we implemented a new interviewing process at Chemline that ensures we are considering different aspects of the role and eliminating groupthink.

Another valuable aspect of the course included a deep dive into KPIs. The strategy focused on return on invested capital and offered significant insights. As a result we are designing new KPIs for Chemline based on that return-on-invested-capital lecture.

I found the quality of the faculty very high, with Professor Gad Allon as a true standout. We met with him individually after one of his lectures. He assisted us in working through our challenges and made himself available throughout the course.

The participants were a diverse group from many different industries and a variety of company life stages. Many great insights came from fellow classmates as we covered the material.”

Ted ThurmondPresident, Chemline

I own a plastic surgery practice here in the Palm Beach, Florida area, but I’m also a serial entrepreneur. I’ve developed and owned a range of businesses through the years, including commercial real estate such as shopping centers.

As a serial entrepreneur, what we normally do is jump in with both feet and then say, what have I gotten myself into? Sometimes it works out fabulously and sometimes it flops. But at this point in my life, I don't know that I want to take the same approach as when I was younger. I decided to enroll in Scaling Ventures because although I’m good at starting businesses and putting systems in place, scaling a business is not a strength of mine. When I saw an ad for this course, it really spoke to my needs.

I was really looking forward to the course; I was excited about it, did prep for it, and had high expectations. And the program was amazing. It truly exceeded my expectations.

The faculty were rock stars. I can't say anything short of that. Not 'outstanding,' not 'fabulous,' but rock stars. They were clearly the best of the best, and I don’t say things like that easily or readily.

One major concept I learned was that growing a business does not equal scaling a business. In order to scale, you must be growing profits at a faster rate than revenue. Another important concept was analyzing and measuring the return on invested capital.

I also learned that not all ideas are worth trying to scale. I have been working on two different business opportunities, and the teachings from the course helped me make smart decisions about them. For one of the opportunities, I realized it didn’t make sense to try and scale it, and for the other, I’m applying a more measured approach to scaling. This was all as a result of taking the course.

I would give Scaling Ventures the highest possible recommendation."

Brian Hass, MDOwner/Founder, Hass Plastic Surgery/Brand Properties

My company, Sherpa Prep, is a standardized test prep provider in the Washington, D.C. market. It’s a small company in relation to many of our competitors, but we’ve established a beachhead locally and are looking to expand on numerous fronts, both physical and technological. In truth, I've been thinking about the issue of scale for several years now. This specific course inspired me to take action for my business.

Scaling Ventures exceeded my elevated expectations. The curriculum is thoughtfully conceived and well curated. In each session, we discussed different aspects of scale — strategic, technological, financial, and human. I knew that I made the correct decision within the first hour, when Professor Allon defined scale and how it differs from growth, and how not all firms are built to scale nor should. Professor Allon explained it all in a way that was crystal clear: I doubt that I’ll ever forget that lesson.

Another important takeaway for me was the Return on Assets Tree, in which managers are challenged to identify their firm’s value drivers: the operational performance measures that affect the firm’s financials. It’s a holistic, thought-provoking exercise, so much so that I started working on it during the course and am continuing to tinker with my findings now, months after the course has ended.

Professor Allon is incredibly transparent, earnest, and friendly. He expressed genuine interest in helping us tackle our individual challenges. A month after the course ended, he graciously scheduled a video conference so that we could discuss what was happening in our companies, what was working for us, and what was not.

I was also impressed by the achievements and acumen of the other participants. Our group was diverse and represented a variety of regions and industries and — perhaps more importantly — entities across the scaling spectrum. Many of us have stayed in touch post-course, holding ourselves accountable to our scaling initiatives and providing each other with constructive sounding boards.

I recommend this program without hesitation and with enthusiasm. As a small business owner, I spend much of my time 'fighting fires,' getting lost in the trivialities of day-to-day operations, and not thinking strategically. Forcing myself to make the time to attend a week-long program was a welcome and necessary respite. Investing in myself and in my company by stepping away and thinking about big-picture questions is something I wish I had done earlier.”

Nafeez AminPresident and Co-owner, Sherpa Prep

We’re an upstart company that makes 3D computer models of buildings for use in engineering, prefabrication, and design. We started about three years ago with nine employees, on very limited financing, but we scaled. Today we’re a tech services company with nearly 100 employees. We’ve had incredible growth.

I wanted to attend Scaling Ventures because as a CEO it's my job to set strategy for my relatively new business. It’s lonely at the top. I can’t always go to my people and say, ‘Hey what do you guys think?’ So it’s good to get outside input to make sure you’re on the right course. I searched several prestigious business schools for courses, but the Wharton course description really nailed what I was looking for. I felt like it was designed exactly for a guy like me, whose company is still sort of early-stage and who wants to get validation on where it's going.

Taking the program was tremendously beneficial for me. Based upon input from Professor Gad Allon and some of my fellow participants, I was inspired to make changes to my three- and five-year strategic plan. So the program altered the direction of how I plan to grow my business. That’s a pretty big impact! In addition, I took back a lot of the course content and taught the highlights to key managers in my company.

I really benefited from being with the other participants, who were from all over the U.S. and overseas. It was great to have a peer group that is facing some of the same issues. They came from a wide variety of backgrounds: software, chemicals, health care, retail, entertainment. It was enlightening to see that — like me — some of them might be incredibly strong in one area and weak in another. I came away feeling like I really do 'have game!' The instructors were all fantastic. Gad Allon is a rock star in my book. David Wessels really stood out too. The professors made the course real-world with great content and case-study material.

Scaling Ventures was worth every penny spent on the trip and the time away from work. I would recommend it absolutely and unequivocally."

Ken SmerzCEO, Eco3d

At Navian, we have recently spun out our technology into a standalone fintech platform called Luma Financial Technologies. We have a very unique and compelling opportunity to scale our fintech platform nationally, and we want to make sure we’re as equipped as possible to do it effectively.

The Scaling Ventures program was fantastic. Almost the entire curriculum was very applicable to what I am dealing with and implementing at my company right now. Some high points for me were the return-on-invested-capital value drivers and decision trees, and the exercise around a firm’s 'alpha' assets. We've put many of the pieces into practice with our management team.

Also really valuable to me was the part about scaling up staffing in the organization, since we’re more than doubling our staff this year. In the program we examined the process of what types of hires you should be looking for, and being careful that you don't have too many “joats” (jack-of-all-trades). The program helped me become more focused on recruiting A-listers with strong connections in the industry.

Professor Gad Allon was excellent, as were all the faculty members. They added a lot of value from their individual perspectives, and they delivered the information really well. A big benefit of the course was interacting with the other participants, as well as staying connected over time and sharing experiences as we implement the principles we’ve learned. I think the network that you build with the other participants is critical, and the Wharton program did a good job of encouraging that interaction.

I’ve taken a Wharton Executive Education course before but it was nearly 20 years ago. I wish I had come back sooner! This program was of immense — and immediate — value to me. I would recommend it very highly. I’m thinking about sending some of my senior managers through the program."

Timothy BonacciPresident and CEO, Navian Capital

I work in business development and strategy at Thorlabs, a family-owned company started by my father about 30 years ago. We manufacture scientific instrumentation for researchers in photonics. We’ve had tremendous growth year after year, but that has come with some growing pains. So a lot of the work I’ve been doing lately involves looking for projects or initiatives that will help us get to our next stage of maturity as a company.

Initially I wasn’t sure if Scaling Ventures would be relevant for me since we’re not a startup, but a private, family-owned business that has existed for many years. But the tools from the class are pretty broadly applicable, and they were focused on the types of business problems we are dealing with.

The program was incredibly valuable and packed with useful information. Professor Gad Allon was great, a really engaging lecturer. The whole faculty had a lot of insight and were very open to answering questions. And being around the other participants was an important benefit of the class that I hadn’t anticipated. I learned so much from them, and I’ve stayed in touch with some of them too.

It was really helpful for me to learn about linking your KPIs and metrics to real indicators of how you’re successfully — or not successfully — scaling your business. One of the projects I manage is developing a company-wide dashboard that gives us both performance and operational measures, and I’ve been layering in some of the work I did at Wharton to create a better, richer tool set for the organization.

I got a lot out of the discussions about hiring people. In fact, I’ve been talking with our HR director about using the interviewing and recruiting tactics from the program. I also took away insights into my own leadership and management style, and the communication aspects of management.

I really enjoyed the program, and I left feeling that it would be beneficial for me to take another class at Wharton. I’d like to get a deep dive in finance, so I’m thinking about programs in that area.”

Jennifer CableStrategy and Business Development, Thorlabs

Date, Location, & Fees

November 4 – 8, 2019Philadelphia, PA$10,950

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