Am I ready for scaling?


Am I ready for scaling?

Scaling is an intensive process that will affect your organisation radically. You will have to devote ample time and resources to it. You will move into unfamiliar territory. You may encounter setbacks. And you will need to show perseverance.

In order to manage the risks and maximize your chances of success, it is important to take a step back and assess whether your organisation is actually ready to start the scaling journey. Such an assessment answers the key questions below.

The key questions in this chapter:

  1. Have we already proven the concept in our current market?
  2. Do we have a clear vision and purpose that is relevant in new markets?
  3. Do we have a committed and capable leadership team and organisation?
  4. Do we have a sound, and integrated business model (societal & economic impact) that can be replicated in other markets?

1. Have we already proven the concept in our current market? 

As long as you are not able to demonstrate that your social innovation concept works in your current market, you should postpone the scaling journey. In that case, it would be prudent to invest time first in developing and testing the concept until its relevance, viability and impact have been proven.

Consider these questions when you test your concept:

  • Who are the targeted beneficiaries?
  • Is your concept meeting a real need and demand?
  • Are stakeholders willing to pay for it?
  • What is the impact you create?

2. Do we have a clear vision and purpose that is relevant in new markets? 

It only makes sense to target a potentially new market (domestically or abroad) if your organisation’s purpose and your social innovation concept are relevant to the local beneficiaries in that market. When assessing local relevance, keep the following questions in mind:

  • Is there a local demand for the concept?
  • Is the local context favourable, both politically and economically?
  • Is your purpose relevant in other cultures?
  • If needed, can the original concept be tweaked for a better fit with local market needs, yet without compromising on your mission?

3. Do we have a committed and capable leadership team and organisation?  

The success of a scaling initiative ultimately hinges on the human factor. It starts with the readiness of your leadership team. It is helpful to address the following questions:

  • Do you feel a strong willingness and desire to take your initiative to a higher level? Are you internally motivated and committed to carry out the scaling activities?
  • Do you have the appropriate competences, experiences and skills?
  • Do you have the stability and continuity as a team (in particular the innovator or the founders) to carry out not only the development of the scaling strategy but also its implementation?
  • Are you able to dedicate part of your time to the scaling activities without jeopardizing your ongoing business activity?
  • Are you prepared to relinquish some control and delegate certain tasks and responsibilities to other trusted people in your organisation?
  • Are you prepared to look for and brief specialised outside support or advice to complement your skills where necessary?

Early scaling advice can amplify results
Young organisations (less than five years) that received business coaching during the scaling process (n=94) on average grew their personnel by 35 percent and revenue by 147 percent than those who did not receive coaching (n=34).

Scaling implies also a change in how your organisation will operate. It is helpful to address the following questions:

  • Do the members of your organisation have the proven skills and preparedness to assume responsibility for some of your current tasks that you will delegate to them?
  • Will you be able to attract the additional employees you may need, and how will you manage such a bigger team?
  • Is your board of directors supporting and approving the scaling initiative and the timing?
  • Can you learn from other social innovation organisations that have gone through a scaling journey before?

Generally, you should feel comfortable with the challenge of finding the right balance between the scaling journey and your daily business demands, and between your entrepreneurial opportunity-driven mind-set and the focus on strategic priorities.

4. Do we have a sound, and integrated business model (societal and economic impact) that can be replicated in other markets? 

A last success factor is one specific to social businesses. It’s about having an integrated business model, which means that the organization’s economic activity and the social program are directly linked: the more revenues generated by an increase in sales (delivering products and services), the higher the social impact. Thus far your model has proven its effectiveness in terms of social impact, which is based on a viable financial model that is sustainable over time. You have a good overview of costs and revenues. A healthy financial base and economic sustainability are crucial to launching scaling operations. Time and resource needs should be carefully estimated in advance on the basis of the size and the difficulty of the investment to scale.

In order to expand efficiently, your organisation’s business model should be a replicable model as well. It should be possible to reproduce both your products and/or services and your structure and processes in the target market. If any adaptations are required, these should be economically feasible. To that purpose, you should try to “codify” your solution, i.e. to conceive it as a combination of fairly standard and well-documented building blocks.

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  • Adopt the “Lean Startup” approach to test and validate your concept.
  • A SWOT analysis can be useful in identifying opportunities and threats before taking the final decision.


To find out more about scaling readiness, please visit our online database with useful resources. A sample of these is listed here below:

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