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Gini Dietrich

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

By: Gini Dietrich | June 4, 2013 | 
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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.

94 comments
AdamPalmMe
AdamPalmMe

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.  

dbvickery
dbvickery

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 to use some of the consulting company's services for a period of time), and we started the new company with a backlog of work. Thus, we never had to ask for money.

The downside is that we were great developers, architects, and project managers - and good at maintaining existing relationships - but we SUCKED at selling. Therefore, we made decent money...but we did not start growing until 2004 when we brought in a consultant to help us out (who eventually became our CEO). Over 12 years later, we typically run between 85-100 employees/contractors, and we significantly expanded our offerings and competencies.

It's been a fun, stressful ride!

HughAnderson
HughAnderson

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.

fieldsf
fieldsf

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. :)

ImMarkBernhardt
ImMarkBernhardt

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 with their clients. That week, I had a business and four clients.

My business partner and I *are* looking to scale, and we continue to refine the process.

Kato42
Kato42

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
TaraGeissinger

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. :)

photo chris
photo chris

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? 

EdenSpodek
EdenSpodek

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

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

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 spend your life living work vs living for yourself' and the fact is most business/tech entrepreneurs do this.

But it leaves out a huge swath of people who have businesses that make good money and are comfy with no drive to expand or grow.Yes they are entrepreneurs just as well. The family that opened the pinkberry or owns a dry cleaners are also. Local drug dealer with no goals of growing into a crime syndicate is also an entrepreneur but fails this test.


I need to call this Daniel guy. Way too narrow minded in his views.

RebeccaTodd
RebeccaTodd

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

JoeCardillo
JoeCardillo

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 my own thing. 

RobBiesenbach
RobBiesenbach

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.


TaraGeissinger
TaraGeissinger

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

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@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.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

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

Kato42
Kato42

@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.

JoeCardillo
JoeCardillo

@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. 

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@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.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

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

RebeccaTodd
RebeccaTodd

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

Kato42
Kato42

@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
TaraGeissinger

@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

@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?

photo chris
photo chris

@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.... 

JoeCardillo
JoeCardillo

@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.")

RobBiesenbach
RobBiesenbach

@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 ...

TaraGeissinger
TaraGeissinger

@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. :) 

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@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, process).

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@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.

RebeccaTodd
RebeccaTodd

@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. 

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@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
RebeccaTodd

@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. 

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