Abacum fp&a logo

Growth vs. Scaling: How to scale sustainably and not grow at all costs

Max Beauroyre, Chief of Staff at Abacum
Max Beauroyre

, Chief of Staff, Abacum

7 min read · Published: February 27, 2023

Are you trying to expand your business, but unsure what approach to take? The concepts of growth and scaling can be confusing sometimes. However, it is important to understand the key differences between the two when planning for future corporate success.

Many businesses start small and try to expand their operations by simply growing as much as possible when they have the chance. But is that always the best option? Should rapid growth always be the priority, or should businesses focus on scaling sustainably instead?

Companies’ decisions regarding how they choose to expand will determine their success or failure. Thus, understanding the differences between growth vs scaling is essential for companies to maximize profits while providing the quality of service they desire. The main distinction between growth strategies and scaling strategies is that the former concentrates on meeting immediate demands, while the latter involves careful planning to fulfill future expectations.

Businesses must understand the importance of balancing a mix of growth and scaling strategies, depending on the business stage, industry, and target market. Keeping this balance will help companies build more robust operations and prepare themselves for increased demand without breaking the bank. In this article, we explore what constitutes sustainable and successful scaling versus just reckless growth throughout the different business stages.

Definition of growth

Business growth is the increase in a company’s revenue, profits, and size over time. It can be measured by looking at the number of customers, employees, sales volume, market share, or any other metric that indicates an increase in business activity. Growth is often seen as a sign of success and is typically sought after by business owners, as long as it is consistent and controlled.

An increase in business activity can come from expanding into new markets, launching new products or services, or a growing customer base.

Benefits of growth

  • Increased revenue
  • Production maximization at a lower cost (economies of scale)
  • Larger market share
  • Increased brand recognition
  • Possibility of investing in new goods or services

Risks of growth

  • Over-expansion
  • Excessive debt
  • Decrease in quality when boosting the quantity
  • Lack of focus and control
  • Difficulties keeping up with the demands of a larger customer base

Definition of scaling

What does it mean to scale a business?

Scaling is the process of increasing the capacity of a business to handle more customers, workloads, or data. It involves making changes to existing systems to accommodate increased demand without compromising quality or efficiency. This can be done in many different ways, such as by adding more resources, improving processes, and automating tasks – often, a combination of all of the above.

When it comes to scaling, organizations should focus on improving their existing operations to increase revenue rather than merely investing in additional resources for the sake of growth. This means planning strategically and investing in technology to become more efficient and cost-effective.

Benefits of scaling

  • Corporate efficiency
  • Expansion opportunities
  • Cost reduction
  • Increased profits
  • Operational optimization
  • Specialized workforce
  • Adaptability to economic changes

Risks of scaling

  • Increased costs
  • Possible workflow issues
  • Longer hiring procedures
  • Direct competition with large corporations
  • Increased decision-making complexity

The 4 stages of business development

The path to success for a business is rarely a straight line. Most companies go through four distinct growth stages before they reach their full potential. Understanding these stages can help companies make informed decisions about how to scale sustainably and not grow at all costs.

1. Startup stage

This stage occurs when a company is just getting off the ground and its initial organizational structure and services are being established. It usually involves the development of plans and strategies as well as investments in the equipment, workforce, and infrastructure needed to succeed.

During this time, business owners are focused on developing a product or service, building a customer base, and raising capital.

2. Product-market fit stage

The product-market fit stage takes place when a company has built a product to meet customer demand. To reach this stage  a product must solve a need for a certain group of customers, be reasonably priced and available to them, and have a sustainable long-term business plan.

The goal of this stage is to make sure that there is enough market demand for the product built.

3. Success stage

At this stage, companies become top players within their industries, and their financials become increasingly complex. This translates into a growing need for business leaders to start thinking about how they want to approach growth to stay agile in the future.

It is now when senior executives begin to adopt modern technologies such as BI tools and FP&A software to streamline operations and improve efficiency.

4. Expansion stage

The expansion stage is the phase in which a business is making a profit and its operations are running smoothly. At this point, a company has achieved success and is ready to scale up its operations.

This stage involves expanding into new markets, increasing production capacity, and investing in new technology and workforce. It also requires careful planning to ensure that the company can sustain its growth without sacrificing quality or customer service.

“Companies that invest more in digital transformation actually outperform their peers over time. These companies are more prepared for disruption, better able to monetize new digital channels, and better able to build a bigger user base. What’s more, this phenomenon exists regardless of industry.”

According to Geoff Cubitt, CEO, Isobar US

By understanding these four stages of business development, organizations may decide how to plan and manage future performance to grow sustainably in the modern day.

The importance of sustainable growth for future success

Growing sustainably, also known as scaling, is essential for any business that wants to remain successful in the long term. It means taking a measured approach to growth by focusing on quality over quantity and ensuring that resources are used efficiently to meet business goals.

In order to achieve this, businesses must establish a strong foundation for future success by making investments in R&D, building solid relationships with customers, and fostering a culture of innovation.

But why is scaling preferable to merely growing an organization?

The process of scaling an organization is more beneficial than rapid growth because it allows businesses to increase their capacity without sacrificing quality. This is particularly critical for companies in the expansion stage trying to strengthen their position as market leaders.

By investing in modern technology, setting clear milestones, predicting scenarios early on, and monitoring progress, companies can meet the demands of a larger customer base and stay financially sound.

Scaling also enables companies to maintain their agility and adaptability to shifting market conditions, which is essential for long-term success. Additionally, it helps business leaders spend wisely and make decisions that will ultimately be advantageous to the corporation in the long run.

Learn how to scale your business with Abacum

Scaling a business can be a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. With the right tools and strategies, you can now scale your business efficiently without sacrificing growth or quality.

Want to know how? Equip your team with the right toolkit.

Learn about Abacum, the business planning platform that can help your fast-growing company scale its operations with 1-click only. Its advanced FP&A features will support your team in automating BvA reporting, building scenarios, and getting actionable insights to appropriately expand your business.

Request a demo now to see how our product can help you plan strategically and improve your operational performance.

Further reading

Discover how finance automation drives better decision making

Spend 75% less time on manual tasks with Abacum

Book a demo
Airplane cta