March 2020 | 

Scaling Your Business? Six Tips that Can Make All the Difference

Scaling Your Business? Six Tips that Can Make All the Difference

When Sarah Roberts came to Wharton in 2019 to attend Scaling Ventures: Developing the Playbook for Profitable Growth, she had very clear objectives. As the managing director of Mortgage House, Australia’s largest non-bank retail lending organization, she and the rest of the senior leadership team were ready to scale after a previous attempt didn’t end with the results they were looking for.

Roberts says the experience was well worth the investment. “I lead our executive group, and I guard my time carefully. If I was going to spend time in executive education, it had to be at a world-renowned business school. I did a thorough search, and Wharton was on top in terms of academic reputation and program curriculum.” She says the week in the program allowed her to step back from the business, evaluate their current operating state, and develop sharper strategies.

“I learned how to scale in a really capable and cost-effective manner, through strategies, processes, and people. One of the most important takeaways that I have already integrated into our company is learning the clear difference between scaling and growth, and what, when, and how to scale. These three areas were broken down and then brought together in an intelligent and practical way.”

In addition to the six specific tools and tips Roberts came away with, she says another benefit of the program was the other senior executives who attended. “Executive roles can be lonely, and it is a rare opportunity to get to listen to and learn from others. As the second most senior person in our company, I am typically the one doing the talking. Being in a community of like-minded people who wanted similar outcomes, sharing our experiences, and learning from each other absolutely exceeded my expectations. These were not the kinds of typical conversations you have in your organization.”

“This was the most powerful academic experience of my professional career,” says Roberts. “The program combines the theoretical and the practical, and gives you access to the highest caliber of faculty. The learning and application continue as I share insights with my team and we use the frameworks from the program. My course notes and materials are a continual reference for me — that notebook goes with me everywhere!”

Here are six of the most important takeaways, according to Roberts:

  1. “Use more data and apply more metrics. When we tried to scale before, we relied on experience and naturally there were some biases. The difference is amazing now that we are using the right information and the frameworks I learned in the program.”
  2. “Organizational structure has to support the scaling effort. We are now reviewing and modifying our structure to make sure it aligns with our goals.”
  3. “Improvement must be continuous. We must be persistent and focused on our culture to achieve solutions. Everyone is busy and working hard, but you have to be persistent in the right areas to drive that continuous improvement.”
  4. “Hire slow and fire fast. There’s always a sense of urgency for finding talent, but we are now using the approach from the program and it is making a difference.”
  5. Focus on customer experience. “Learning how to scale operations through a competitive strategy was invaluable, and a focus on customer experience was deeply embedded in the program. Even though as senior leaders we are looking at high-level data, it’s something that we can’t lose sight of, and it is now at the forefront of many discussions.”
  6. Identify any potential constraints and hedge against them as you scale. “This was not something I had considered before,” says Roberts.