What It Takes to ScaleUP: Tales from the WEtech Alliance Tech Accelerator Program

When the growing gets tough, the tough start planning.

That’s a quote nearly every entrepreneur who sits down with us eventually hears.  It isn’t that growing a business is complicated.  It just takes a lot of hard work.

Over the last year, we put two cohorts of ventures through their paces in what we call our ScaleUP Tech Accelerator Program powered by Libro Credit Union and funded by the Ontario Trillium Foundation – a four-month sprint that helps companies with early sales to grow rapidly, enter new markets and install systems that can withstand the pressures of the marketplace.  The principles we use are relatively simple but require lots of sweat equity to master.

At the end of each four-month sprint, a pitch competition is held to assess who grew the farthest and fastest.  Our most recent winner, a start-up called KegShoe, is a shining example of what is possible when you have an eye for detail and the patience to be diligent in all aspects of your business

KegShoe is a powerful keg management software explicitly designed to allow brewers to keep track of their keg fleet using tech they already have at hand – their smartphones. KegShoe designed the system with simplicity in mind, meaning that busy brewers won’t have to add new tasks to their day.

Artur Pawliszko, Director of Sales and Operations, recalls his ScaleUP journey.

“One of the most valuable parts of the program was being able to identify our points of friction,” says Pawliszko.  “We decided that we couldn’t scale because of four main things. Our sales growth had stalled, leads weren’t converting into sales often enough, our sales process was too long, and customers who needed support weren’t getting it nearly fast enough.”

When WEtech first assesses how best to assist a company, we always look at identifying gaps in internal systems.  Once we’ve done that, we can work on prioritizing changes, creating timelines for our transformation, and developing the kinds of metrics we want to track closely

Over the coming months, we worked with Kegshoe to eliminate waste, adopt systems of scale, and focussed on building a sales experience that delighted customers.  We didn’t do it on our own though. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and the same can be said for growing a start-up.  We leaned into an incredible community of experts we fondly call our Venture Success Team (VST).  As we identified pain-points, we worked with our VST to develop highly impactful workshops that cut directly through to Kegshoe’s most essential needs.

“The results were amazing, but not surprising,” says Pawliszko. “We had spoken to past ScaleUP companies and knew the process worked.  All of our identified friction areas improved, and we’re now at over 100 breweries across the globe.”

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Artur Pawliszko (left), Director of Operations for Kegshoe accepts a cheque from Lori Atkinson (centre), Regional Manager – Essex Kent for Libro Credit Union and Adam Castle (right), Director of Venture Services for WEtech Alliance

Diving in is easy, and below you can find six simple first steps to take on your growth journey:

1. Schedule dedicated blocks to work on your business.

The most important thing you can do to grow your business is committing to work ON it. As entrepreneurs, it’s so easy to lose track of our strategy and playbooks, but no one else will grow our business for us, so we have to put the sweat equity in and plan appropriately.

2. Go buy yourself!

As soon as we start scheduling in strategy time, the first thought exercise should be to start thinking like a customer. There is one unmistakable business truth–growth strategies begin and end with the customer. It is just that simple. Place focus on the customer and the world is your oyster. Adopt an outside-in point of view by seeing your business through your customer’s eyes, and you will begin to identify new ways to delight your customers and grow your business.

3. Think like a (not so mad) scientist!

Making changes to your business can be scary, but a constant evolution is needed to stay on top, and actual risk comes in the form of getting too comfortable, instead of jumping into change with both feet. Treat all your ideas like science experiments, and carefully test and track new ideas for success. First, develop out your assumption, then test it out on a small segment of eager early adopters. From there it’s all about measuring outcomes and leaning into the successful experiments to strengthen your business. The better you understand your customers, the better you will get at choosing experiments to run with positive outcomes.

4. Never mind the box, think outside the stratosphere

Growth in business doesn’t always come from within your venture. What I mean by that is innovative partnerships can go a million miles to bringing you closer to your growth goals. Partnerships can come in the form of teaming up with other businesses, supporting local charities, and even renting special talent to get things done. There is no shame in not knowing how to do something, so bringing in outside help to assist in the execution of your next big idea can pay off big time. Expanding “on demand” like this not only keeps costs down but helps you scale to size and can increase the kind of creative capital needed to climb out of the inevitable valleys that all businesses find themselves in from time to time.

5. Turn your clients into stage-five clingers!

I strongly suggest using some of your dedicated strategy time to thinking about the products and services you offer, and how well they are integrated into your customer’s life (or businesses processes, in the case of B2B firms). You don’t want to be a supplier or vendor or retailer.  You want your business to provide substantial value that powers the customers you work with. One of the best ways to develop your relationships and keep yourself top-of-mind is to investigate all the points of friction a potential customer may experience when trying to buy from you. Bring yourself back to #2 above! Can they find you easily online and in person? Do your hours make sense for their needs? Are you targeting the right clients for your business? How can you create a customer service experience with so much value that you aren’t just wanted, but needed?

6. Wanting to attract new customers is human, but to retain them is divine.

New customers are exciting, they are shiny and different, and they make for impressive charts on slides you probably won’t show to nearly as many people as you want to.  But have you considered business retention!? Business retention is what the smartest founders and business owners focus on the world over. Why? Because business retention is the most critical fuel ingredient for growth. You don’t want to lose ground by continually having to find new customers, and you definitely don’t want to lose customers to a competitor. So here is the key: do not leave customer retention to chance. Being deliberate and creating systems here is crucial. Without getting too deep into the details, the quickest way to implement a retention system is to consider your relationship with your customers a conversation, not a transaction. Regularly engage them with emails, social media content, and special offers. Learn about their lives and connect with them at important moments to not only remind them that you’re still there, but that you have solutions and provide value that makes their lives easier. Creating an excel file for this sort of thing is super easy, and there are tons of more powerful tools out there to help you keep track.

These tips are perfect to get your business started on a brand-new skyward trajectory, call it a New Year’s resolution, and commit to working on things in the new year. You don’t need to tackle everything at once, but whatever you pick, commit to it. Success and consistency go hand in hand. Measure all your outcomes carefully and give yourself demanding timelines! Growth is the thing that happens when we leave our comfort zones.

If you’re a tech business looking to start and scale, or if you’re a business looking to adopt new technology, you might be a great fit to take advantage of WEtech Alliance services! Sign up HERE.

Happy Holidays, I can’t wait to see your name pop up in my calendar in 2019!

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Adam Castle has spent the last six years working in Economic Development in Windsor-Essex, specializing in business development and growth across multiple sectors and working with companies of all sizes. Adam is a highly driven and successful Business Advisor with an entrepreneurial spirit. He started his first business when he was 15 and continues to run it today. His favourite sport is beach volleyball.