Getting the Help and Advice Your Scale-up Business Needs to Grow

You had a great idea and showed the fortitude needed to turn it into reality. That’s what got your business off the ground. Hard work, knowledge and instinct then ensured that you got things up and running. Now it’s time to grow.

Scaling up a company in any industry or niche is a challenge. You have to find the right strategic direction that will let your firm flourish. You must make tough choices like none you’ve ever faced before. The smartest business owners understand that the more advice and input they get, the more likely they are to get the key decisions right. Where, though, can you turn to get that invaluable advice?

Options for Advice, Guidance and Instruction

Sustainable growth is the holy grail for any scale-up business. You need to put your business on the right path, so that it will develop at a manageable rate for years to come. If you haven’t scaled up a company before, finding that path can be tough. Help from someone with the kind of experience you lack can make all the difference. There are a number of different ways you can go in search of that advice.

Business Mentors

A business mentor might be a really good option. Particularly if you’re looking to aid your personal development as a business owner, as well as getting strategic advice. Mentors exist to help business owners find and develop their own strengths. Alongside filling gaps in their practical experience.

Choose the right coach or mentor, with experience in your niche, and they can deliver:

  • An unbiased view of your business and your performance as owner
  • Tips and advice on how to better steer your scale-up moving forward
  • Suggestions as to the path to take to overcome specific challenges
  • Practical help handling employees or operational changes



Non-Executive Directors

Your scale-up’s Board is critical to the future of the firm. You need to be confident that you have the right board members in place to cope with whatever that future may hold. If you feel your Board has gaps in its collective knowledge or a lack of experience, Non-Executive Directors can help you.

A Non-Executive Director is a board member who doesn’t hold a specific role in your team. That means they don’t play a direct role in the day-to-day operations of your firm. Instead, they can focus on policymaking and planning. As well as overseeing and helping your current board members in making key decisions.


Fractional Executives

If you’d like a new perspective on your firm, you may look to appoint fractional (or part-time) executives. Fractional executives take on an executive role on your Board, but on a contract basis.

Good examples of fractional executives are Part-time Chief Operating Officer (COO) and Part-time Chief Commercial Officer (CCO). They might work with your firm one or two days a week, but will still bring a lot of experience and knowhow to bear. They’ll be able to assess and improve your business’s procedures and operations at all levels.

Fractional executives are a favoured option of many scale-ups. At that stage of development, businesses often have a tight budget. They can’t afford to appoint full-time executives. At least not ones at the required level. Appointing those individuals on a fractional basis is far more cost-efficient.


Scale-up Challenges Advisors Can Help You Meet

Every scale-up business faces an array of different challenges. They’re the areas in which they must excel in order to succeed. Whichever avenue you explore for expert guidance, the best advisors will help you meet those challenges.

There’s no scale-up business challenge that isn’t made easier by having access to expert advice and guidance. The following three areas, though, are where such assistance can prove most vital:

  • Strategic direction
  • Business growth
  • Strategic funding



Strategic Direction

Defining overall strategic direction is key to the scale-up process. At its simplest, it means analysing a firm’s strengths and opportunities to decide on the best way forward. By understanding where a business stands and where it wants to go, aims and processes can be defined. They are what will make sure the business gets there.

Analysis tools such as SWOT and MOST analyses can help firms find a strategic direction. They each involve collating as much information as possible about the firm. About its operations and the wider business world in which it exists. Business advisors can add their expertise to make those tools even more effective.


Business Growth

This is what scaling up is all about; taking your business to the next level. To get there, you need to learn how to find and pursue the correct opportunities. You must grow your customer base and make sure the business runs as efficiently as possible. Experience with larger firms and an outside perspective will aid this process no end. They’re two things that fractional executives or other advisors can deliver.


Strategic Funding

As with many business endeavours, scaling up a company is easier if you have adequate funding. It can often be tough for owners of smaller business looking to grow and develop, to gain financing.

Experienced advisors can help you to find the best funding options to explore. They can also help you to present yourself and your business in the best way. A way that can ensure you will get the backing of banks, investors or venture capital firms.



Linking Up with the Best Advisor for You

We’ve already talked about the different types of advisor you could look to approach. What can you do, though, to ensure that you work with the right individual? Your first step in this regard is to make sure you understand what you need to get from anyone you work with.

You have to know why you’re seeking an advisor. That’s the only way you can define just what any business mentor, NED or fractional executive you hire should bring to the table. Try to think of both the practical and intangible aspects of an ideal relationship.

Practical things to consider may include the experience an advisor has in your field. You may also want to take into account the breadth of contacts an executive could give you access to. Intangibles to think about include whether a potential advisor shares your values. As well as if they will be someone you can work closely with.

When you’re ready to reach out to a prospective advisor, the best place to start is by drawing up a brief. That should be a comprehensive and detailed document. It must include everything you want your relationship with the individual to be. Lay out what you need from your advisor and what you expect them to deliver. You’ll also want to feature practical details of compensation and contract terms.

Your brief, once it’s complete, is what you should reach out to a business mentor, fractional executive, Non-Exec or other advisor with. It will show them how professional and prepared you are. It also allows any individual who won’t be able to provide what you need to realise that. They can then let you know immediately. That way, you’ll find it easier to link up with the right advisor.

If you need a little help finding possible candidates, there are plenty of ways you can turn. You might already know your perfect advisor. That recently retired contact who you’ve worked with for years may be just waiting for an opportunity to pass on their experience. Alternatively, networking events can also be ideal occasions to approach a prospective advisor. Particularly those aimed at professionals from your specific niche.

To ensure you don’t take a misstep, you may also choose to Boardroom Advisors to provide the help you need. We specialise in connecting scale-ups with board advisors, part-time executives and business mentors. We’re adept at finding and facilitating relationships to take any firm to the next level.


Establishing & Maintaining Your Advisor Relationship

Once you’re sure you’ve found the right advisor and you know they’re up for the task, you need to get the relationship established. That means drawing up a formal, written agreement. That’s what gets everyone – quite literally – on the same page. Having such a document will ensure everyone understands their duties and responsibilities.

Exactly what the agreement can contain may differ. It must reflect your individual circumstances and the relationship you need to have with your chosen advisor. There are certain elements, though, which should always be included:

  • For how long and on what terms (two days per week etc.) your advisor will work with you
  • How and when you’ll assess performance. When and by what means you may end the relationship
  • The fee and/or other compensation you will be providing your advisor
  • The advisor’s exact position within your company and what responsibilities they hold
  • Specific goals you expect them to help you meet and according to what timeframes
  • Who they should and shouldn’t liaise with within your organisation


Having all those things written down and agreed beforehand will make a relationship with any advisor easier to manage. When everyone knows just what they must deliver, the chance of conflict down the road falls.

The goals and responsibilities you define for an advisor also make oversight easier. You can more readily assess the success – or otherwise – of any relationship. You can see if your chosen fractional executive or Non-Executive Director is delivering what you expect. If they’re not, you can look to end your relationship according to the terms you set out in the original agreement.


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Written by: John Courtney

John is highly ranked in the Top 100 UK Entrepreneurs list by City AM and is winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award from techSPARK. He has been a Board Director himself for over 40 years and first started placing Non-Executive Directors over 25 years ago. John founded and ran seven of his own businesses including a Management Consultancy for 10 years, a Corporate Finance offering for 10 years and a mid-sized Digital Agency for another 10 years.