3 tips for scaling up a start-up in the finance industry

Lending Works' Nicholas Harding provides his top 3 tips for scaling up a finance industry start-up.

So, you’ve founded your own start-up, which is doing quite well, and you’ve decided it’s about time you looked at expanding your business. Of course, scaling up a small business can be very exciting, as well as rewarding, but you need to do it very carefully, as pursuing growth opportunities can actually put all of your hard work at risk. And, if you’re working within the finance industry, there are certain regulations and common problems that you need to be aware of.

Here, I’m going to outline some of my top tips for scaling a finance SME, which will hopefully help to give you the best chance of succeeding with this venture.

Lending Works' Nicholas Harding provides his top 3 tips for scaling up a finance industry start-up.
Brexit continues to be a headache for both industry and politics. With no clear way forward, the climate of uncertainty will continue to affect decision making. Photo: @JJFarquitectos via Twenty20

Keep Brexit in mind

One of the biggest issues on most UK business owners’ minds right now is Brexit. And, it’s vital that you take the current political climate into consideration when you’re thinking about scaling your business up ⁠— especially if you’re offering a financial product or service.

For example, due to the ongoing uncertainty of Brexit, the value of the pound has fluctuated a lot of the last few years. Depending on how your business operates and whether you work with companies or individuals from other countries, this could have a huge impact on your bottom line over time. As a result, it’s well worth considering whether now is the best time to scale up. Some business owners are opting to carry on as usual until they get a better idea of what Brexit will actually mean, instead.

Many SME owners are also concerned about how freedom of movement will be affected in the wake of Brexit. Here in the UK, we have a digital skills gap, which means many businesses have resorted to recruiting talent from abroad. But it’s possible this will become much more difficult once the government has agreed on a deal with the European. As a result, you might struggle to bring the right people onboard to help scale your business up. So, it’s a good idea to look into whether you’re going to be able to hire the staff you need before making any concrete plans.

Lending Works' Nicholas Harding provides his top 3 tips for scaling up a finance industry start-up.
Remember you are only one person and you simply cannot do everything. While delegating might feel like relinquishing control, trust your judgement and the people around you. Photo: @incomecenterr via Twenty20

Learn to delegate

From experience, I know how hard it can be to relinquish even the slightest bit of control when you’ve built a business up from the ground. But there comes a time when the only way to scale-up is to delegate certain jobs to allow you to focus on the tasks that only you can do.

Of course, this will be much easier if you have a team around you that you can trust. This means it’s vital that your recruitment processes are very thorough. This will give you the best chance of assembling a workforce that’s going to be able to bring your vision to fruition.

You also need to come to accept that there will be certain situations where you won’t be the best person to complete a particular task. For example, while you might be great at pitching ideas or handling budgets, someone out there might have a better idea of how to market your business, or more experience of cold calling prospects to make sales. Even if you’ve been doing an okay job of everything so far, handing certain responsibilities to those who are better qualified will free up more of your time, and should also help you to get even better results.

Don’t let go of the values you’ve built your company on

Every business is built on a particular set of values that’s totally unique, and that’s what sets you apart from the crowd. And, you need to ensure you hold onto these values, regardless of how big your company becomes.

As a result, you need to make sure you only hire staff and work with investors who have the same vision as you. This isn’t always easy ⁠— especially if your business begins to grow much quicker than you were ever expecting ⁠— but you need to do everything you can to prevent your business values from getting watered down. Remember that they got you to where you are, and they’ll also help you to get where you’re going. If you’re confident in them, don’t compromise on your values for anyone or anything.

Bear in mind also that outsourcing is often a perfect solution to hiring dilemmas where you aren’t in a position to offer permanent work to the people you really want. Innovative agencies such as kaweb.co.uk have built their reputations on offering flexible, intelligent collaboration that works with your business. Finding the right partners is in many ways as important as hiring the right staff and lets you get people who buy into your vision.

Scaling a business up is always a risk, as it can mean putting the work you’ve already done on the line. But, with great risk can come great reward, so it can be worthwhile. Just make sure you keep these tips in mind throughout the process ⁠— hopefully they’ll help to give you the best chance of bringing your vision to life.

Nicholas Harding is CEO of Lending Works, a peer-to-peer lending platform, which opened for business in 2014. Since then, Deloitte has ranked the company as the UK’s 10th fastest growing tech firm, the third fastest growing FinTech business, and the fastest growing consumer credit business. He knows a thing or two about scaling up a start-up and, here, he shares his top tips for financial business owners looking to do the same.

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Darie Nani

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