But only a small portion of these start-ups will make the leap to become a growing business that enjoys success at scale.
For the best chance of becoming a successful scale-up, small businesses need the right people, systems and processes in place, with an invest-to-grow mindset. They need to plan for the complexity, standardise and automate processes wherever possible and eliminate manual processes.
Scale-ups need technology that supports growth
In particular, would-be scale-ups need to ruthlessly hunt down disconnected systems, islands of data and the spreadsheets that inevitably flourish in fast growing companies – and replace them with integrated systems or a single, unified platform designed to support high growth.
That means senior management and IT staff thinking about technology investment that serves not only the business today but the business they want to become.
Not only is this essential for smooth growth, it is increasingly something that investors will look for when offering funding for expansion.
Automating processes gives scope to grow
Scaling a business inevitably means adding new staff, entering new markets and countries, growing your customer base and increasing the product or service portfolio. Keeping visibility and control of the business its costs and capabilities is key.
It will quickly become apparent that the manual processes and basic software used in the early days of establishing a business are not up to the job when scale and speed required.
Growth businesses need a technology platform that can support the company as processes, transaction volumes and complexity increase. It should give a young business the ability to respond quickly to opportunities and threats without the distraction of having to maintain unwieldy IT systems.
When growing a company, management need control, visibility and the ability to respond quickly to changing circumstances. The technology deployed at growth stage should free up management to focus on the core business and run an efficient, customer-centric organisation.
By automating and integrating operational processes, businesses can achieve end-to-end visibility of the business while enabling teams to focus on scaling at speed while still delivering exceptional service to customers.
Cloud-based systems offer scalability
This need not mean investing in expensive, bespoke software and hardware. Modern cloud-based technologies offer scalability, agility and low total cost of ownership, freeing scale-ups from cumbersome IT overheads and allowing them to manage growth on their own terms with technology that will scale with them.
Plus, by selecting cloud applications that can operate globally and automate manual, time-consuming tasks such as tax compliance or multi-currency transactions, major barriers to international expansion can be removed.
Beauty brand Charlotte Tilbury is a great example of how the automation of business management processes helped it to grow and handle international expansion.
The brand was faced with phenomenal global growth after its launch in 2015. As new entities were set up, the brand needed to handle financial consolidation, order management, inventory management, customer relationship management (CRM), increasingly complex tax compliance and a growing volume of multi-currency, multi-language, and multi-country transactions.
It quickly found this was easier to manage from within a single, cloud-based business management system. By doing so, the business harnessed the scalability, flexibility and agility it needed to achieve business efficiency and meet its aggressive expansion plans.
Releasing the data for future growth
Making an investment in the right technology and integrating business processes will make a small business agile enough to out-innovate larger competitors and deliver sustainable growth.
A cloud-based business management system provides full oversight of business operations and delivers easy access to data to make insight-driven decisions on how and where to grow the business.
For instance, robust reporting enables businesses to regularly compare financial data from different stores or channels to market, to identify trends that may impact long-term growth, such as cash flow or liquidity.
Data from ERP and supply chain platforms can help drive actionable sales opportunities, personalise marketing and ensure accurate inventory management to improve customer loyalty and satisfaction.
Maximising the value of data
One company to realise the value of its data was online fitness apparel company Gymshark, one of the UK’s fastest growing retailers. By integrating its systems, Gymshark was able to gain greater insight into its online customer data, which allowed it to provide more personalised offerings and services to shoppers across multiple channels and markets globally.
Gymshark and Charlotte Tilbury are just two businesses who have made the leap from start-up to success and while their own drive, ambition and hard work are pivotal, so is recognising the critical role technology and data can play in supporting sustainable growth.
Investing in the right management systems to support agile, adaptable growth in changing market conditions and new geographies is essential and will help businesses reach their full potential.