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How to scale successfully: key learnings from Lazaridis ScaleUp all-cohort event

In October, we hosted our All-Cohort event in Toronto, and it was a great success. After pausing our annual gathering due to Covid travel and meeting limitations, we were happy to see so much enthusiasm and energy from the scale-ups and speakers as we returned to an in-person meeting this year.

We were lucky to have many of the Lazaridis ScaleUp program's mentors and speakers join us for this event. Featured speakers included Mike Wessinger, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of PointClickCare; Michelle Banik, former Chief People Officer, OMERS; Thomas Nielsen, former Chief Digital Officer of Tesco and Deutsche Bank; Marnie Walker, two-time successfully exited founder; and Emily Mikailli, SVP of People, at Signifyd.

These industry luminaries shared their experiences and engaged in lively conversations at the event and in the social settings surrounding the formal sessions. Best of all, they distilled their personal experiences into key lessons that will help high-potential Canadian companies scale successfully and sustainably, even in challenging growth environments like the ones we are facing today.

Here are the key takaways.

#1: Re-evaluate your strategies  
As you scale your company, it’s important to have a comprehensive strategy that considers every area of your business and how they interact. 

Product strategy - As you consider your prodct strategy, it's important to plan ahead and map each component of it against the overarching company strategy. This will help you know when to say no and when to take a new approach.

Change strategy - Transform difficult situations and structural change into success-defining opportunities. Structural, organizational and strategic change as you scale is inevitable, so it's important to have a methodical approach to change.

  1. Understand the nuanced needs of your organization, including which areas are under-resourced, where there are inefficiencies and what the overall culture is of your company. From there, decide what changes are necessary. You want to plan your changes ahead of time by assessing the risks, required resources and associated costs, and how you’ll measure success.  
  2. “Scope out your evangelists.” These are the people within your organization who will take on responsibility for communicating and advocating for change. They're typically great problem-solvers and will be instrumental in getting the rest of your organization on board with change.  
  3. Build out your communications and rollout plan – but be prepared to inspect and adapt. Part of your strategy should include constantly assessing what’s going well and where you need to pivot. If your change management plan doesn’t account for change within the strategy, you may be missing the point.

Throughout this process, you may want to also consider the DICE framework. DICE (Duration, Integrity, Commitment and Effort) is a four-step process to think through before you implement change. By taking this approach, the changes you implement will more likely be successful.  

#2: Protect your brand through storytelling

As your company scales, more people will want to know who you are and what you stand for. Take the time to document your values, origin story, case studies and customer success stories and keep them top of mind for your marketing, PR and communications. Think of it as a “story data vault.” 

When a company is starting out, it’s common to have a few employees doing multiple jobs. But as you grow, marketing and communications shouldn’t be something "to do when you have a moment." Instead, your marketing & comms should be prioritized, and undertaken with intention, time and a plan.  

Storytelling is integral to engaging your audience and building your brand. Great brands requires strong stories that get the target audience involved – if they don’t care about your story, they won’t care about you. Also, keep in mind that if you don’t have good stories to share about your company, you won’t have anything to quickly counter with if (and when) you get bad press. 

Finally, it’s important to share your story with journalists in a proper manner. Remember, talking to a journalist is not a conversation, it’s a method of information gathering…and journalists are always looking for the best story. Go into interviews feeling prepared and well-practiced.

#3: Leverage the people around you  

They say being a CEO is lonely, but maybe it doesn’t have to be. It takes a village to build a company, so make the most of the people around you. Leverage the expertise of your board members. If they aren’t contributing, get them involved. If you have team members who feel unmotivated, find a new way to engage them. Your professional network, investors, employees and the people around you will always be your greatest asset, so don’t neglect them.    

Outside your organization, consider your relationship with your VCs. Remember that founder-VC relationships are a two-way street; you should be as interested in them as they are in you. Get references for your VCs and make them work for you – they need to be both financially and emotionally invested in your business! 

Inside your organization, prioritize creating a diverse and inclusive culture. De-gender job postings, get rid of any toxic culture and welcome underrepresented voices. A more inclusive workforce leads to more engaged and productive employees – which further fuels your company’s growth.  
These takeaways represent just a fraction of the lessons learned. Over the coming months, we'll be going a deeper dive into the lessons learned at our All-Cohort event and sharing practical advice for scaling and growing your business. Thank you to everyone who attended and a special thanks to Marnie Walker and BLG for making this event possible.  

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