Founders that Scale Up generally do 12 things much better than successful start-ups who get stuck in No Man’s Land. These disciplines are observable and learnable and constitute ‘The Science of Scaling Up’.

In my last post I shared the inadequacy of traditional management schools and books for Scale Up leaders. Traditional leadership know-how, valuable as it is, must be complimented with the practical guidance and tools required to navigate the specific, complex challenges unique to Scale Ups. Fortunately, the Science of Scaling Up is rapidly being codified by Scale Up guru’s around the world. We’re here to share it.

10X Entrepreneurs™ – 12 leadership disciplines for reaching the Promised Land

80% of entrepreneurs who get stuck in No Man’s Land do so for more or less the same fundamental reason. And the 20% that make it out get out by doing more or less the same things.

Make no mistake: what separates winners and losers usually has little to do with intelligence or energy. Like most great games, once you hit the premier league strength is not enough and it becomes far more about the subtleties of technique.

Technique is something 10X Entrepreneurs have. We call them that because 10X Entrepreneurs (or 10X-e’s) successfully grow to at least 10X the size of your average lifestyle business and they all do it roughly the same way.

10X-e’s know that you don’t win the Premier League the way you won the college circuit. Some things stay the same (eat right, stay fit, beat the other guy), but others move up to a whole new level, changing the game entirely. There is a degree of strategy, organisation, and standards of precision in execution that just weren’t necessary in college. The talent and speed that worked then still count; they’re simply no longer adequate.

Ditto for what we call ‘Leadership tech.’ in Scale Ups. The principles and practices that got you here won’t get you to where you want to go. A fundamental shift happens when you move from 7 staff to 12, then to 20, 50, and 100. The challenges of leadership change as do the tools. Most entrepreneurs fail to graduate to the premier league because they just don’t know they need to, and then they don’t know how to.

10X-e’s demonstrate 12 core disciplines much more strongly than successful founders who later get stuck. Those 12 disciplines can be divided into 2 categories: there are 8 business disciplines, and 4 personal disciplines that collectively make up ‘The Inner Game’ of 10X Entrepreneurs.

The 8 Business Disciplines of 10X-e’s

The Leadership Tech (principles and tools) needed to scale an organisation is not rocket science. It is simply 8 basic disciplines without which you’ll find yourself stuck in No Man’s Land. The difference between 10X-e’s and other entrepreneurs is not whether they know or understand these disciplines, but whether they apply them in the whirlwind of Scale Up life. 10X-e’s militantly sustain them in the hostile reality of Scale Up life that resists these disciplines at every step.


blog illustration #3

  1. Be hyper-focused

10X-e’s know when to shift from a culture of experimentation (find product market fit; find scalable business model) to execution (do what you do, only better and more of it). Once they have a scalable core, they throw their best resources behind doing and scaling it.

  1. Manage Execution

10X-e’s know that simply doing what you decide and promise becomes exponentially more difficult the more headcount grows. They know when to shift from informal management to implementing great management systems that make sure they whole company is aligned, accountable, and engaged.

  1. Build an A-Team:

10X-e’s know the hard truth that Scale Up leadership skills are different to start-up leadership skills, so not all critical start-up team members will succeed in senior roles in a large and growing organisation. 10X-e’s make the hard calls and transition from a start-up leadership team to a scale up leadership team that is scalable. They also build better soft and hard ‘People Tech’ – the culture and systems needed to grow a team of amazing people who thrive and deliver awesomeness. Most critically, they build a leadership team that will sustain that awesomeness at scale.

  1. Harness your Board

10X-e’s build Boards that work. Insecure entrepreneurs are threatened by the idea of a strong Board that can influence company direction and fire them for not performing, so they don’t build one. 10X-e’s know that once you’re Scaling Up, the benefits of speed that come from having no Board, are outweighed by the benefits of great leadership that come from having a strong one. They know the limitations of 2-3 decision-makers buried in the details and biased by short-term pressures. They also know ‘the vortex’ of daily operations will keep them so buried in gritty problems they will fail to dedicate the required time and attention to the strategic and organisational level of leadership the business needs. So they build a Board that forces them, empowers them, and helps them to make great decisions and to operate at the right level of leadership.

The 3 previous points are the clearest points of difference between 10X-e’s, and others.

  1. Systematise Revenue Growth:

10X-e’s know that once you’re Scaling Up, you need the right revenue, not just any revenue. They know some revenue is worth gold, while other sales opportunities are ‘siren’s songs’, luring them onto the rocks of unnecessary complexity. So they systematise scaling the right kind of revenue. They know their sweet spot; offer a uniquely compelling promise, build great channels to market, and systematise and scale their marketing and sales engines.

  1. Systematise Customer Delight:

10X-e’s know scale requires shifting from operations as a series of projects, to operations as a set of systems and processes. But they also know this can kill customer delight and thereby create a growth ceiling. So they nurture an empowered culture of ownership at factory-floor level which empowers and requires staff to make customers happy. Staff then build world class products and processes centred on customer delight.

  1. Manage money militantly:

10X-e’s don’t drive blind and they plan for rainy days. They know the next black swan is around the corner, a thousand are behind it, and they’ll need cash to survive. They also know decisions not armed with accurate financial insight are expensive (sometimes deadly). So they go over-weight on great financial functions that help them to know their financial position and cash needs, to optimise cash flow, to raise capital in time, and to make every decision armed with accurate financial insight.

  1. Be investable:

10X-e’s know wealth only comes through scale, scale will probably require capital at some point (if not, a crisis may require it without prior notice), and capital generally comes on its own terms. They learn the rules and language of capital, make themselves attractive to funders and build strong relationships with good investment partners (even if it’s ‘just in case’).

It’s that simple, but…

These disciplines may look a lot like the normal disciplines needed to lead any big business until considering the following 2 points. First, within each of these disciplines lies a myriad of principles and tools to overcome the specific challenges peculiar to Scale Ups. The Science of Scaling Up includes those approaches and tools. Our blog will unpack these in the months ahead.

Second, there is a difference between learning to ride a bicycle, and learning to ride one inside a tornado. Learning these same disciplines in a large business (that is already systematised and well-resourced) will help; but learning to do these things inside the tornado of a Scale Up requires herculean grit. In the next blog post, we’ll focus on the 4 personal disciplines that constitute ‘The Inner Game of 10X Entrepreneurs’.