Growth vs. Scaling — What’s the difference?

The last occasion you and I chatted we discussed the trials and tribulations of puberty for girls. So I thought it was high time we spoke about something a little more… businessesy.

As a marketer, I am personally responsible for business growth. However, many of my competitors use the term scaling frivolously. The reason they do this, I assume, is because scaling a business sounds more modern, more fancy, more businessy than saying growth.

But, they aren’t the same thing. Some marketers are specialists in scaling, some are specialists in growth. However, all marketers are really specialists in growth (or should be) but they aren’t specialist in scaling. Most scaling specialists AREN’T marketers.

Let’s break this down. In this blog, I’m going to argue why, if someone sells themselves as a social media manager, SEO, content creator or PPC/Meta ads advertising manager who scales businesses you should run.

What’s the difference between scaling a business and growing a business?

First let’s define growth vs scaling.

Business growth

Most people want to grow their business (on paper — it’s completely normal if you fantasise regularly about running away to open a beach bar on a Greek Island).

What does that mean/look like? Well, a growing business is one which may be obtaining new team members, it may be acquiring new customers, it may be selling more products.

Usually my customers want the following things from social media and social advertising:

  • More brand presence
  • Repeat customers “community”
  • New customers
  • A bigger shelf space within retailers
  • Access to new buyers, retailers and resellers
  • More of a “following”
  • Future proofing their business so they aren’t dependent on one stream of sales such as referrals or Amazon

This is all business growth territory. Your brand is expanding out over a wider network of customers and buyers, you’re increasing your profit. Growth is one of my core values of this business, because if I am not creating business growth what the hell am I doing as a marketer. I’d frankly be too embarrassed to work with a client and not help them grow in some arena.

Here’s the main reason why I don’t get into scaling at this point — with your new money from your business, I care not what you do with that. As long as my retainer is paid, nothing else that happens within your business is my concern. I don’t get involved with improving the product, or pricing, I don’t get involved with your staff. It makes no difference to me if you hire 10 new people with your profit, or if you simply decide to spend it all on designer handbags.

If a social media marketer or PPC advertising manager is saying they will help you scale your business, they simply don’t understand what that actually means. Which in my opinion, is a huge red flag. 🚩

Let’s delve into scaling now.

What does scaling your business mean?

For almost a decade I ran my business without any desire to scale it. Not everyone needs or wants a scalable business.

There are a few stages you may go through as a business where you want to scale from one specific point to another such as:

  • Scaling from a sole trader into a LTD company.
  • Scaling from a small LTD company into securing your first million yearly turnover.
  • Scaling from a million pound business to a 2 million pound business, within a year as an example.
  • Scaling from a profitable LTD Company into a PLC, floating on the stock market.

At each of these points, depending on where you are and what you’re doing, you’re going to encounter things that you may not have any experience in. Such as:

  • Finding board members, chiefs and directors and understanding where those people need to sit and what they need to do.
  • Working out an onboarding, training and exit system for your employees so you can hire and fire with minimised drama.
  • Cultural changes — you as the business owner may need to become more emotionally distant from the business. You may need new HR policies, you may need different furniture. Some people decide not to scale purely because they want to retain cultural intimacy.
  • Physical changes. Is everyone going to fit happily in your current space. Do you need a bigger studio or workshop?
  • Can your current manufacturer support you in going from 1 mil to 2 mil? Do they have capacity for that? What are you going to do if they don’t?
  • Device and internet security. Protecting a business with a team of 100 is wildly different to a team of 10.
  • Project management.
  • Having brand guidelines so a PR or marketing project can be managed without your input.
  • Having profit margins that can support a team, advertising budget, premises and whatever else you need.

Now we can really start to see why most people actually don’t want their business to be as big as possible. Starting a corporation isn’t for everyone. And honestly, you might not even make more money having a really large business. You can even get fired from a business you started if it gets big enough.

I have one employee and a couple of freelancers. This is new, it used to be just me and I was happy keeping my businesses at that size. This was on recommendation from my business coach — my freedom, peace and bank balance was most important to me. But last year I wanted to be able to provide a full time job to someone I really enjoyed working with, this allowed me to take on more clients and expand my portfolio more quickly than I had been able to manage before. Then I decided to scale my business. So I worked on getting everything I’d need in place — an accountant, a project management system, equipment budgets, a new brand, a bigger workspace.

Are you starting to see where social media managers, newsletter writers and SEO’s can’t really help out with this? 🤔

We can absolutely SUPPORT you in you scaling. We can aim to assist you in deciphering what marketing budget you would need to grow your business to support your scale and be talented enough to make your marketing budget have an ROI. But we can’t scale your business. At the end of the day, if someone who wants to be a large, household name corporation type of business only wants to give me a £100 advertising budget because they have no investment, there isn’t much I can do about that apart from manage their expectations.

Some businesses aren’t set up for growth or scaling because of critical errors in their development. For example I ended a partnership with a client because a 5X ROAS (return on ad spend) wasn’t profitable for them, as their profit margins were very very narrow. If you’re selling a £50 item with only a £5 profit on it, I cant grow your business because you aren’t set up for scale. Your business model can’t tolerate hiring marketers or advertising spend because you have not designed your business to scale. And I can’t work with you on making your product more profitable, because that delves into manufacture, market positioning and a whole host of things I don’t have experience in.

If you hire a coach, business consultant or marketer who is selling their services as a scaler, experience is key. If you want to grow from a sole trader into a LTD company with 5 employees, you’ll need to be speaking to someone who is familiar with this process and has steps in place. There are great scalers out there who have seen everything and come up with a plan. It would be ludicrous to work with someone offering to scale your business if you wanted to float on the stock market, who had never achieved this for themselves or their clients. And to be clear, someone in this position likely never would hire a Facebook advertiser who is offering to scale their business.

A very large business may already be selling as much as there is market demand, and be unable to scale. These business owners are usually realistic about that. They’re looking at 3% increases in sales, which to them translates as millions — but doesn’t classify as scaling.

Let’s collectively ignore these hacks promising business scaling without even knowing your advertising budget, your profit margin, the capacity of your manufacturers, your retailers or your market demand. Mostly let’s ignore them because it’s likely they’ve never scaled a business before!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *