Advancing from start-up to a fully-fledged scale-up is still a subject of much debate and confusion for many business owners. Small business owners grapple with many questions while planning their next strategic step.

Understanding the distinction between start-up and scale-up is the key ingredient to a successful graduation. However, the risk of losing the identity built as a start-up and the associated pressure can be off-putting.

How do business leaders grow a sustainable and enduring company?

Know what you’re good at, and what you’re not

The first step in any new strategic phase is to establish an honest diagnosis of the status of your business. It’s useful to understand the realities employees are facing in all sections of the business. For example, I became an intern in each department for a week to get hands-on experience and figure out what we were uniquely good at, and where we could get better.

Understanding flaws is highly valuable and will motivate teams in the right environment to constantly innovate.

Growing and learning require transparency and honesty: you must acknowledge weaknesses, mistakes and challenges, so you can focus on solutions and keep improving. Collaboration should be part of your DNA. Sharing - internally and with the outside world – will help growing your business.

Be consistent with your identity

The next step is to be clear on your ambition and your vision. Make sure your values, identity and branding are systematically consistent, otherwise you run the risk of becoming lost, confused or even forgotten.

Values and culture drive your vision forward. Are you about action, speed and experimentation? Do you pride yourself on testing and backing your innovative ideas with hard data?

Implement a ‘entrepreneurial’ staff mentality

Making a quantum leap means scaling up dramatically, which in turn requires leverage, cash and resource. I have worked at a range of organisations that scaled up fast and industrialised processes so things could be done better and faster.

What’s the real trick to success? The answer is simple: it’s people. Creating a culture of entrepreneurs encourages the creative freedom needed to succeed. After all, a business starts and ends with its people.

Build a training ecosystem

Great ideas happen everywhere, not just within the four walls of your business.

Sharing hands-on knowledge demonstrates the desire to include others in the development and success of your business. Creating exchanges, partnerships and joint training with other players in the eco-system will enhance everybody’s creativity and success rate.

Ditching the start-up label isn’t easy, but is very manageable if armed with the right tools and the right attitude. Understanding the business’ strengths and weaknesses, solidifying brand identity, treating employees as entrepreneurs and encouraging co-collaboration will take the business to its quantum leap.