Interview with Kevin Brent, founder of BizSmart and author of The Entrepreneurial Scale Up System
Posted on 20th September 2022 at 14:31
Scaling a business is not easy, and there isn’t one simple tip or magic bullet that is suddenly going to deliver phenomenal success. The statistics prove it – half of start-ups fail within five years and two thirds within 10 and, of all businesses, nearly 96% are unable to scale beyond 10 employees.
To uncover why this is the case, and to help business owners overcome some of the common challenges encountered when scaling up, Kevin Brent, founder of BizSmart, created The Entrepreneurial Scale Up System [ESUS], which has helped hundreds of companies reach their growth ambitions.
Here, Kevin discusses the system, its key principles and how business owners can use them to build a scalable, sustainable and valuable business.
What is the Entrepreneurial Scale Up System all about?
“The Entrepreneurial Scale Up System draws on BizSmart’s own research and our experiences of working with hundreds of owner-managers on their paths to scaling up and building successful and valuable businesses.
“It explores the key reasons why most organisations don’t scale and delves into how the challenges change as business owners reach different milestones on the ScaleUp Journey.
“We give readers a practical step by step guide to successfully navigate between the milestones, and a proven system to help them scale up.”
Why did you decide to write the book?
“I distinctly recall having a conversation with a business owner with 16 employees joking that there isn’t a practical instruction manual or playbook as to how to scale a business – so I looked into it and set out to deliver just that based on the knowledge and experience of myself and the wider BizSmart team from working with hundreds of business owners”
Who is the book aimed at?
“The book is designed for successful and ambitious business owners perhaps feeling a little stuck and wondering how they can cope with the next stage of their growth. They may be struggling from the typical ‘symptoms’ of time, people and cash – not having enough hours in the day, struggling with their team not seeming to see things in the same way as them and not behaving quite as they would hope, and perhaps wondering why their growth is not translating into cash in their pocket! They are likely to have been in business for more than a couple of years and have between 3 and 40 employees and looking to develop the kind of business that gives them the freedom and control they crave – rather than being controlled by their business.”
What will business owners take away from the ESUS?
“Through the system, readers will be able to truly understand what it takes to become one of the 4% and build a more valuable business, as well as how they can become a more effective and confident leader.
“It will give them that ‘playbook’ I mentioned earlier as to how to successfully scale their business.
“I hope it helps them rediscover their passion in their business and inspires them to aim higher, and that they gain a solid understanding of how to harness the power of their people and gain more control over their business.
“The ESUS will also help readers increase the productivity and profitability of their business and, crucially, make sure they get ‘paid first’!
“The book isn’t about short-term fixes and glib tricks and promises – it’s about putting a system in place that will enable business owners to strengthen the underlying business so fewer symptoms emerge, and so when they do [because they inevitably will], they will have a structure for the business to deal with them.”
What are some of the key principles from the system and how can they benefit businesses?
“There are too many ideas and principles to name here but central to the ESUS is the concept of the ScaleUp Journey and key stepping stones along with the four fundamental ‘pillars’ of scaling up that we need to get right as we navigate the different stepping stones - strategy, people, execution and cash.
“We look at the core things within each of these pillars that we need to get right at each stage of the ScaleUp Journey to be able to scale successfully and overcome the challenges along the way, and we provide a ‘checklist’ of things to consider and to work on over time.
“This gives business owners a clear understanding and actionable plan to put them on the right track to achieving their goals.”
You speak about the ‘owner’s trap’ in the ESUS – please can you explain what this is and how it impacts business growth?
“Too many business owners fall into the trap of working in the business, not on it – creating an ‘owner’s trap’ that can be difficult to break out of without cash and the right resource.
“To progress beyond the 8–12 employee level we need to be able to remove ourselves as the bottleneck – we have to break free from the typical ‘owner’s trap’ where we are the centre of everything, and we need to develop leaders ‘behind’ us.
“We must find ways to delegate even the things that we think only we can do in the business – or that no-one else could do better - otherwise we will hit a ceiling, and this is something we look at in detail in the book.”
90-day planning is also a big focus. What exactly is it and why do you recommend it to businesses on their scale up journeys?
“All businesses – large and small – can benefit from a solid 90-day planning process – or ‘habit’ if you prefer. Without it, they will struggle to maintain consistency and harness the power that comes from having everyone aligned around the same priorities.
“90 days is short enough that you can see things reasonably clearly and long enough that you can achieve something meaningful if you try.
“In the ESUS we look at all the elements that are fundamental to an effective a 90-day plan, and effectively walk readers through the process of putting in place a 90-day planning cycle.”
What is next for BizSmart following the release of ESUS?
“In 2020, we launched our very own franchise model to enable professionals to build and establish their own business support offering under the BizSmart umbrella.
“We have big plans to keep growing our network of franchisees over the coming years, as well as continuing to expand our offering to provide valuable support to more business owners than ever on their Scale Up Journeys.
“Through the book, our Smart90 software and our franchising, we aim to support over 10,000 business owners, creating more ‘ScaleUps’ and moving the needle on the dial currently showing only 4% scale beyond 10 employees”
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