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Scaling your business: Quick tips from our #ScaleUpSeries panel

Throughout 2018, O2 and Enterprise Nation have hosted a series of #ScaleUp events in London, where five of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs have shared their start up story and offered their tips and practical advice for scale up success.

At October’s event we also heard from a panel of speakers whose expertise comprised raising funds, recruiting talent, embedding organisational culture and leveraging technology. Here’s a nugget from each speaker:

Are you asking the right funding questions?

Conrad Ford is the CEO and Founder of Funding Options, a company that matches businesses with appropriate sources of funding. He describes his own business as the ‘MoneySuperMarket of business funding’.

At one level now is the ideal time to be raising funds for your business, according to Conrad:

“With interest rates at an historic low, and with some of the highest ever employment rates in the UK, there has probably never been a better time to secure funding for your business.”

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should:

“Entrepreneurs often ask me how they should pitch to an investor, and what a business angel or venture capitalist will expect to see at a pitch for funding. For me, these are the wrong questions to ask. Instead, an entrepreneur or SME owner should ask themselves two questions: What am I trying to achieve with my business? Do I really believe in what I am trying to achieve? Only then should they consider the funding they are likely to need.”

Conrad finds that by asking these questions, business owners often identify ways to reach their objectives other than by raising capital and diluting their shareholding.


Are you looking for ‘cultural add’ rather than ‘cultural fit’?

James Kennedy recently joined the Experienced Hire recruitment team at KPMG, having been Head of management and specialist recruiting here at O2. James recognises that for an SME founder, hiring your first recruit can be daunting, and making the wrong decision can unbalance the culture that you are trying to embed. James believes that there is a common recruiting mistake that most small businesses make:

“Having identified a role that needs to be filled, it’s natural to consider your own values and company culture, and then set out to find someone who will fit in with them. But this isn’t the right strategy for a scaling business.

Instead, you should think about what a candidate might add to your operation, rather than how they will fit in. Think of it in terms of ‘cultural add’ rather than ‘cultural fit.”


Do you have the ‘white belt’ mentality?

Simon Alexander Ong is a business strategist and speaker specialising in leadership mindset, coaching entrepreneurs and small business owners looking to scale their business at speed. Simon uses a martial arts analogy with his clients, encouraging them to retain a ‘white belt mentality’ at all times:

“You might assume that the ultimate aim is to attain the rank of black belt. Not so. The black belt gets complacent and doesn’t train as hard as they once did. By contrast white belts are open-minded, willing and able to learn from anyone. They seek out feedback and recognise that there is always more to learn.”

In Simon’s experience, the most successful entrepreneurs keep hold of their ‘white belt mentality’ and surround themselves with other white belters too.


Are you making best use of technology in your business?

Ant Morse is Head of Digital Solutions here at O2, so it’s no surprise that he is a big fan of technology. For Ant, technology is the great enabler that empowers every scaling business:

“Within a generation we have seen increasingly compact mobile devices pack more and more technology inside them, to the point where we carry in our pockets everything we need to work remotely, communicate effectively and collaborate with clients and colleagues.”

Ant’s own Digital Solutions team at O2 is no exception:

“There are ten people in my team, and between us we have some fairly niche digital skills. It wouldn’t be easy to recruit all ten team members locally, but technology means that location becomes almost irrelevant.

I may only meet the team in person a few times each year, but with a few simple applications we meet virtually, communicate and collaborate on projects effectively every single day.”

The good news is that most of the applications Ant uses with his team aren’t designed just for enterprises and larger organisations. In fact, any start up or SME can get its people collaborating and communicating effectively using free or low cost apps like Slack, WhatsApp and Skype.


At O2 we are proud of our partnership with Enterprise Nation, and we will host more events like 2018’s #ScaleUpSeries in 2019 and beyond. You can subscribe to this blog to stay updated.

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