Gini Dietrich

Scale-Up Entrepreneur: Do You Have What it Takes?

By: Gini Dietrich | June 4, 2013 | 
96

Scale-Up Entrepreneur: Do You Have What it Takes?I fell into running my own business quite accidentally. I was never one of those people who thought, “I have to have my own thing someday.”

Of course, if you know me, it makes sense. I’m a double type A personality who is very competitive (I can hear my team laughing out loud at that right now) and always strives for the best.

But I’m also an introvert and it’s extremely difficult to do some parts of my job because of it.

As an entrepreneur, it can be a handicap and, while I work really hard on my weaknesses, it can be exhausting and some days I truly do want to throw in the towel.

My Own Venture

I remember the very moment the idea of running my own business was put into my head.

Clients had been to visit us and I was waiting outside the building with them for their car service to arrive. The chief marketing officer at the time turned to me and said, “Have you ever thought about going out on your own?”

I scoffed at him and said I was perfectly happy. I was treated really well, I was paid really well, my benefits were great…why would I disturb that apple cart?

But his comment kept ruminating in my head and, when circumstances changed, I decided to take the plunge. Of course, I didn’t take the full plunge – that was too risky. I freelanced because I was afraid of committing to it wholly. Even after we had office space and a few employees, if the right job had come along, I probably would have taken it.

It wasn’t until after the economy tanked and we nearly went out of business that I decided this business was here to stay (or had the confidence to make it so). And now I’m focused on something entirely different: Scaling the organization so we can provide the resources my cracker jack team needs to succeed.

Are You a Scale-Up Entrepreneur?

That’s why I was really interested in the “scale-up” test from Daniel Isenberg, the author of the forthcoming “Worthless, Impossible and Stupid.”

Following is his test to help you figure out whether you are cut out to be a scale-up entrepreneur. Answer each question with an agree or disagree.

  1. Something inside compels me to make something that will affect the marketplace.
  2. I am great at selling things to people that they may not know they want, nor think they have the money to buy.
  3. I have people on my team who are better than me in several areas of knowledge or practice.
  4. My venture already has the procedures, policies, and processes in place to be ten times the size we are today.
  5. When I don’t know what my next step is, I have experienced people I can turn to for ideas.
  6. There is money out there to fuel a venture that is growing fast; I just have to find it when I am ready.
  7. When I achieve my objectives I keep raising the bar higher and higher.
  8. I am one of the best sales people I know.
  9. Think big; thinking small is a crime.
  10. I know entrepreneurs just like me who have grown big, fast.
  11. The sales process is just starting when the customer first says no.
  12. If my venture stands in one place too long, it runs the risk of perishing. We have to keep moving forward.
  13. I know how to find great people to hire.
  14. Nothing gives me a bigger rush than closing a big sale.
  15. It is more important to know of a big problem that customers have and then look for a solution, than it is to have a solution that is looking for important problems to solve.
  16. I used to think our great technology would take us to leadership in our market — now I realize it is our team, our organization, our marketing and our ambition to sell.
  17. Even though I am a startup, I think more like a market leader than a small business.

I got a 12 out of 17. How’d you do?

Thanks to Escape from Cubicle Nation for the image.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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96 Comments on "Scale-Up Entrepreneur: Do You Have What it Takes?"

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PattiRoseKnight1
PattiRoseKnight1
3 years 3 months ago

#9 is my favorite.

ginidietrich
3 years 3 months ago

PattiRoseKnight1 Mine too!

belllindsay
3 years 3 months ago

Oooooh, I want to know which ones you missed!!

ginidietrich
3 years 3 months ago

belllindsay I missed most of the sales ones – #2, 4, 6, 8, and 10.

RebeccaTodd
3 years 3 months ago

ginidietrich belllindsay Hah the ones I got!

Word Ninja
3 years 3 months ago

ginidietrich belllindsay Me, too. My dad always had to buy all my band fundraising candy bars.

ginidietrich
3 years 3 months ago

Word Ninja LOL!!

JoeCardillo
3 years 3 months ago

ginidietrich belllindsay I do agree with him that sales is a big part of scale, but I think most of the time you can alleviate any weaknesses by simply selecting the right people to work with. If your idea is good, and they get it / can interface with you on a high level about your vision, there’s no reason why you have to be good at everything.

RebeccaTodd
3 years 3 months ago

JoeCardillo ginidietrich belllindsay I can sell anything to anyone, but I need parameters.

belllindsay
3 years 3 months ago

JoeCardillo ginidietrich I couldn’t sell my way out of a wet paper bag.

JoeCardillo
3 years 3 months ago

belllindsay JoeCardillo ginidietrich Well I was going to see if you wanted to join my new startup WetBag.ly but now I’m not so sure…

ginidietrich
3 years 3 months ago

JoeCardillo belllindsay He said sales and attitude are the most important. Sales is not my skillset, but I don’t do too badly on my own. If I had someone like RebeccaTodd or you, I’d kill it!

belllindsay
3 years 3 months ago

JoeCardillo belllindsay ginidietrich Oh but the CONTENT you would have Joe!!!

JoeCardillo
3 years 3 months ago

belllindsay JoeCardillo ginidietrich Ha! Touche =)

jasonkonopinski
3 years 3 months ago

Heh. I am the very definition of an accidental entrepreneur.

Erin F.
3 years 3 months ago

jasonkonopinski Same here, but we’ve had this conversation before.

jasonkonopinski
3 years 3 months ago

Erin F. Oh yes.

ginidietrich
3 years 3 months ago

Erin F. jasonkonopinski I think it’s interesting how they’re defining self-employed vs. entrepreneur vs. scale-up entrepreneur.

phollows
phollows
3 years 3 months ago

ginidietrich Erin F. jasonkonopinski I like these three terms a lot. They help differentiate — and none are bad, per se.

ginidietrich
3 years 3 months ago

phollows Erin F. jasonkonopinski About two years ago now, I had a really interesting conversation with David Meerman Scott. He told me his goal was to do only one speaking engagement per quarter and write books. He could easily make seven figures doing that, but many people thought it was silly because he’s not building something. I said, “Heck! You’d make more money than I do and I’m building something.” Maybe he has the right idea…

jasonkonopinski
3 years 3 months ago

ginidietrich phollows Erin F. Oh, I never told you how many I got! 13. 
Ack. 😉

Erin F.
3 years 3 months ago

jasonkonopinski ginidietrich phollows I think I’m an 11. Numbers 7, 9, and 12 are my favorites, though.

Word Ninja
3 years 3 months ago

Can I retake this test? I got -3.

ginidietrich
3 years 3 months ago

Word Ninja LOL! You can’t get a -3!

RobBiesenbach
3 years 3 months ago

Word Ninja Yeah, I got a B-. What does that mean?

ginidietrich
3 years 3 months ago

RobBiesenbach Word Ninja You’re doing it wrong!

RobBiesenbach
3 years 3 months ago

ginidietrich Word Ninja That’s what she said. Boom! Roasted.

Word Ninja
3 years 3 months ago

ginidietrich RobBiesenbach But Gini don’t we all still get a ribbon for participation?

ginidietrich
3 years 3 months ago

Word Ninja RobBiesenbach Oh sure…a ribbon or something.

Word Ninja
3 years 3 months ago

RobBiesenbach It depends on the grading scale. What does B stand for? Best? Bodacious? In which case you aren’t doing so bad.

RobBiesenbach
3 years 3 months ago

Word Ninja It’s actually, “Booyah, Broseph,” which really makes me question the methodology.

phollows
phollows
3 years 3 months ago

Timely. I answered this today very differently than I think I would have done 6 months ago. I think #3 is the most important for my company right now.

ginidietrich
3 years 3 months ago

phollows I agree with you on number three for your business. But you have number nine down perfectly so you’ll get there!

MichaelBowers
MichaelBowers
3 years 3 months ago

Thanks for this post. You know I love to hear of your entrepreneurial exploits.
I got a 9 probably because I underestimate my sales skills especially in the space I work. 
For me #7 and #12 are the most important drivers. I think there are a lot of opportunities to take our Center private. Given the public funding environment for stuff like I do it is important to take control and create something we see is needed in the market and not be restrained by the priorities of another organization.

ginidietrich
3 years 3 months ago

MichaelBowers And you’re in a really good place for start-up and venture funding. I think you should do it! After Thursday, of course.

MichaelBowers
MichaelBowers
3 years 3 months ago

ginidietrich MichaelBowers I guess I’ve taken 11 years to get to this place in my work so I can wait until Friday

TonyBennett
3 years 3 months ago

I was 5 for 5 thinking I’m da entrepreneurial bomb… still strong at 8/10.  Then I pretty much stumbled to the finish line with 10 outta 17.  I’m my own worst enemy. I’ve known you for approximately 532 days, 7 hours, and 32 minutes and you know I talk a good game.  Obviously I suck at execution cuz the only thing I’ve scaled is a wall of frustration! Love this piece Gini D.  That’s why you pay you the big bucks!

ginidietrich
3 years 3 months ago

TonyBennett The only you’ve scaled is a wall of frustration. LOL!!

RachelStrella
3 years 3 months ago

Wow, Gini. This was awesome. Way to rock the entrepreneurial world! I scored a 13, but then I thought that seemed too high… went back and did it again… 13. This was the validation I needed. Thank you!

ginidietrich
3 years 3 months ago

RachelStrella Must be your lucky number!

RachelStrella
3 years 3 months ago

ginidietrich 😉

RobBiesenbach
3 years 3 months ago

Well, I am SO not this person: “14: Nothing gives me a bigger rush than closing a big sale.” I mean, even among work-related things that give me a rush, that’s not near the top of the list. But I accept that about myself and salute those for whom it is.

ginidietrich
3 years 3 months ago

RobBiesenbach Not even in new business meetings?

RobBiesenbach
3 years 3 months ago

ginidietrich Well, sure, if you put it in that context. But the source of the rush for me would be that I connected with these people well enough that they could see the value I bring. Which is similar to the rush I get when I do great work — the client is pleased, and I’ve helped them in a way they really value. I guess I saw #14 as more of a cha-ching thing. And I certainly have no problem with the cha-ching — that’s just a different kind of a rush. If that makes sense …

ginidietrich
3 years 3 months ago

RobBiesenbach That’s the same rush I get…and I see that as the result of #14. If it’s in a cha-ching way, I would have to answer “disagree” to that one.

JoeCardillo
3 years 3 months ago
I got a 10…..actually, been thinking a lot about this question since I’m doing the startup thing now.  I’m not sure if I would put together my own startup (although, I got ideas) but if I did I would live and die by 3, 5, 13 and 16. Entrepreneurship starts with a great idea, but scaling up and being successful is all about having people on the same page, in my opinion. In that sense I think I’d be more likely to find someone with an idea and vision, that would want to leverage my skills rather than to start… Read more »
RebeccaTodd
3 years 3 months ago

JoeCardillo Interesting- I completely see you doing your own thing. I’ll hop on board when you do.

JoeCardillo
3 years 3 months ago

RebeccaTodd JoeCardillo Well shucks. That is a very nice compliment. 
I had a long conversation last night with a couple of friends about structure, we got pretty far into Marshall McLuhan, art/design, Ai Weiwei, but the takeaway was basically: if you want to make real change, you go to a place where they want you to reshape structure, or you startup your own thing. I think the hardest part of a startup is making good structure, and not having any extra stuff (everything has to have a reason, even if the reason is “we’re experimenting right now.”)

RebeccaTodd
3 years 3 months ago

JoeCardillo RebeccaTodd I like that. A lot. Had my performance review yesterday and floated another new idea that would be truly reshaping the current structure of one of our brands. Would be amazing.

ginidietrich
3 years 3 months ago

JoeCardillo RebeccaTodd Structure IS the hardest part of growing a business…particularly when the founder is so involved in the day-to-day activities (cough, cough). That’s why I scored a big, fat zero on #4. Sigh.

RebeccaTodd
3 years 3 months ago

ginidietrich JoeCardillo RebeccaTodd But like we discussed at dinner, that is a focus for you right now. You have identified that as an issue, and are working towards a resolution. It’s hard when you want to CONTROL ALL THE THINGS to let some go. Believe me, I get that. I was just asked what I was going to off-load to take on new stuff…it’s really damn hard, and it ain’t my name on the business.

JoeCardillo
3 years 3 months ago

RebeccaTodd ginidietrich JoeCardillo And don’t forget, if you’re doing #3 right then #4 will be covered.

RebeccaTodd
3 years 3 months ago

Honestly, G, I am not sure how you do the things you do. Especially the way you expose yourself. Very courageous.

ginidietrich
3 years 3 months ago

RebeccaTodd You’re going to get a comment this afternoon that is almost identical to this one. You’ll see what I mean.

RebeccaTodd
3 years 3 months ago

ginidietrich RebeccaTodd Kinda scares me just a tiny wee bit.

KateFinley
3 years 3 months ago

Wow I scored higher than I thought. 14! SO many thoughts right now.

ginidietrich
3 years 3 months ago

KateFinley I almost sent this to you to be sure you saw it today.

Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes
3 years 3 months ago

I don’t come here for higher math questions. 😉 I scored a 27.5.

ginidietrich
3 years 3 months ago

Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes Oh. Dear.

Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes
3 years 3 months ago

ginidietrich I got extra credit for my work which is why I scored so high.

JoeCardillo
3 years 3 months ago

Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes ginidietrich Jeez. This guy is answering questions I didn’t even know were on test…I give up.

ginidietrich
3 years 3 months ago

Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes How did you get extra credit? For answering them twice?

Howie Goldfarb
3 years 3 months ago
This is interesting. I just read in the ny daily news how lifestyle clauses are entering marriages. For example if Michael Douglas gets caught cheating he has to pay millions. Somehow Justin Timberlake got off with just $500K which is pocket change so i bet he cheats a lot 😉 But Mark Zuckerberg has a unique one related to the list of questions. He has to spend 1 night per week with his wife and 100 quality minutes a week as per the marriage contract. I feel a lot of those questions really are saying ‘Will you work 365/24/7 and… Read more »
EdenSpodek
3 years 3 months ago

Howie Goldfarb I may be quiet here at times but I love reading your comments. 😉

ginidietrich
3 years 3 months ago

EdenSpodek Howie Goldfarb And she heard me make fun of you during my keynote on Saturday.

ginidietrich
3 years 3 months ago

Howie Goldfarb The local drug dealer is an entrepreneur…and may not fail this test. The great people he hires are those who are willing to break some knees if they don’t get paid for their product.

JoeCardillo
3 years 3 months ago

Howie Goldfarb That may be the attempt to distinguish between entrepreneur and startup-entrepreneur….in theory the idea doesn’t have to weigh which is better, but in practice it almost always does. 
Expansion and WANT MOR MONEYZ are not the only values that matter, however try getting funded without them. Not always a bad thing, but troubling when it’s the only motivator. Plenty of business that should shouldn’t expand, or maybe shouldn’t expand at this moment.

Kato42
3 years 3 months ago

Howie Goldfarb “I feel a lot of those questions really are saying ‘Will you work 365/24/7 and spend your life living work vs living for yourself’ and the fact is most business/tech entrepreneurs do this.”
Yep. And that’s why I’m never going to be a Mark Zuckerburg. Well, that and I only do as much programming as is absolutely necessary to get WordPress to give me what I want.

EdenSpodek
3 years 3 months ago

So, if I got 11 what does that mean other than needing to fix my web presence? ;p

ginidietrich
3 years 3 months ago

EdenSpodek It means, if you’re so inclined, you have the ability to scale a business!

photo chris
photo chris
3 years 3 months ago

I’m kind of having a heart attack right now…me, self employed? An entrepreneur? A 12 out of 17- what does that MEAN?!?!?  I think, at least a dozen times a week, of what else I COULD be doing;  then quickly follow with, “Grass is always greener….” Does someone here have a crystal ball I could borrow? Please?

ginidietrich
3 years 3 months ago

photo chris LOL!! There are definitely pros and cons. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done…and I’ve done a lot of hard stuff. I’ve climbed Pike’s Peak in a day, I’ve run three marathons, I’ve ridden my bike across the Rocky Mountains in five days…nothing is as hard as running your own business and having employees and finding a way to work with different personalities.
But you’re also in charge of your own destiny. YOU get to decide how you work, who you work with, and when you work. I could never go back to working for someone again.

photo chris
photo chris
3 years 3 months ago

ginidietrich photo chris Marathon running = Entrepreneur    *faint*….I’m never leaving my cubicle. Ever. As matter of fact, I may start working UNDER it.  Methinks you are a tad terrifying, lol!   Baby steps….perhaps into freelancing first. Let’s see if I can stay afloat before I drown a ship of people. In all seriousness, what are the top three things you would recommend reading to to help with this decision?  I think Danny’s book is just a bit beyond me at this point….

ginidietrich
3 years 3 months ago

photo chris When I started my business, I was very let down by everything that was written. It was all so negative and talked about all these failures. It wasn’t so motivating.
Some books that have had an affect on how I run the business: What Would Google Do, Groundswell, Predictable Success, and The Marketing Agency Blueprint.

ginidietrich
3 years 3 months ago

photo chris P.S. I think freelancing as a start is a good way to go. It’s how I started.

photo chris
photo chris
3 years 3 months ago

ginidietrich photo chris adding to my “to read” list now…THANKS!

photo chris
photo chris
3 years 3 months ago

ginidietrich photo chris Thanks again!

TaraGeissinger
3 years 3 months ago

ginidietrich photo chris Love the book recommendations. I haven’t read a couple of those — picking them up now!

photo chris
photo chris
3 years 3 months ago

ginidietrich photo chris Ok- so I guess my follow up question to this is why, “small business” over “free-lance or self-employed?” Is it the reach and capabilities you have as a “business” vs. just being a single person trying to “handle it all?” Did I just answer my own question?

ginidietrich
3 years 3 months ago
photo chris When I started my business, there were many things I didn’t know. I didn’t know there are lifestyle businesses, which allow you to make as much money as you can while providing the flexibility you want/need. There are businesses built to sell. There are businesses built to last or change an industry or create a new category. There are pros and cons to each…you have to decide what is most important to you. I’m structuring my business now to allow me to do what I do best (write and speak) while someone else manages where I’m weak (operations, HR,… Read more »
photo chris
photo chris
3 years 3 months ago

ginidietrich photo chris I think I want to be you when I grow up… 🙂 In all seriousness, have you ever thought about business coaching?

TaraGeissinger
3 years 3 months ago

I completely fell into owning my own business as well. I took time off from the marketing agency when I had triplets (for obvious reasons) and when they started preschool regularly I was ready to jump back in. I started slowly, freelancing and partnered with my now business partner, Christine. Fast forward 7 years and we have a thriving business that continues to scale. I scored a 14 which I think pretty much certifies me as insane. 🙂

ginidietrich
3 years 3 months ago

TaraGeissinger What?! You couldn’t work FT with TRIPLETS?! As if.

TaraGeissinger
3 years 3 months ago

ginidietrich TaraGeissinger Yeah, they were needy little buggers in the beginning. Heck, who am I kidding? They are still pretty hands-on at 10-yrs-old, but I’ve adapted. I can work in the middle of a firestorm if necessary. 🙂

photo chris
photo chris
3 years 3 months ago

TaraGeissinger ginidietrich Ack! Triplets…marathons…I need to get in better shape before I jump into this pool!

Kato42
3 years 3 months ago

Ahhh… I am definitely not a scale-up entrepreneur, but I knew that already. TaraGeissinger I just have one kid and I can’t imagine how you did it with THREE. Colour me impressed!

TaraGeissinger
3 years 3 months ago

Kato42 — I never knew it any other way! They were my first and last, so we made it work.

Kato42
3 years 3 months ago

TaraGeissinger What? You had three kids all at once and didn’t go back for more? LOL 
It is amazing what we can do when the need arises. . . but still. . .

TaraGeissinger
3 years 3 months ago

Kato42 Well, we *were* a foster family for a while, but it didn’t work for us. My kids were too young. I can see maybe doing it again in a few years though. 🙂

ImMarkBernhardt
ImMarkBernhardt
3 years 3 months ago
I scored an 11. The (recovering) perfectionist in me wants that to be a full 17. Bonus points for my answer to #14? The biggest rush for me is to tell someone I see as an asset to our team, “You’re hired.” Closing a big sale is up there, though. Similarly, I didn’t seek to become an entrepreneur. I had just returned home from grad school and was looking for an interesting job, to build it into a career. While I was interviewing for an opportunity near Toronto, I met two brothers about helping them with their company’s website and… Read more »
fieldsf
3 years 3 months ago

I got around half of them. Give me a year or two, though, when I’ve gotten to the point of hiring a team, and I’ll probably score much higher.  Probably not on the “I’m the best sales person I know” question, though. 🙂

HughAnderson
3 years 3 months ago

Oh how I empathise with this. To hear you publicly say “it can be exhausting and some days I truly do want to throw in the towel” is amazing as I know exactly how you feel but rarely admit it.  It’s a real roller coaster, it’s really exciting and if I didn’t have a family, mortgage, school fees etc I really wouldn’t worry a tenth as much as I do.

dbvickery
3 years 3 months ago
I never planned on venturing out on my own. We grew up with the generation that pretty much got the gold watch after 25 years of service at the same company, and I was performing well for that big company. Then I did a couple strategic moves to other large companies, was doing consulting, and someone asked me a similar question as what you heard. Actually, it was a statement: “It would be a lot cheaper for us if you had your own company vs our paying a large consulting shop”. I was let out of my non-compete (by agreeing… Read more »
AdamPalmMe
3 years 2 months ago

These are the best entrepreneurs, the ones that started a business who never intended to ever start a business. Entrepreneurs are amazing people, they’re a different breed and some of them figure out humility, I just think most are all about the money and not the love of business.

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