Top five reasons why businesses fail to scale

‘Only 4% of UK businesses grow to have more than 10 staff’ is the worrying statistic released in this year’s Scale Up Institute report. 

Whilst the UK typically ranks highly when it comes to the level of entrepreneurship,  James Anderson of Baillie Gifford’s Scottish Mortgage Investment Trust acknowledges that ‘the UK culture doesn’t celebrate the entrepreneur.’  This could help explain why scaling up beyond an initial big bang idea is a challenge. 

The Scale Up Institute identified five key gaps for fast growing business in their 2022 report “Scaling Beyond Frontiers’ (see link for the the whole report here) but our experience of scaling businesses and working with clients suggests that the real blockers are these recurring challenges:

  1. Lack of sales development;
  2. Talent and productivity gap;
  3. Access to finance;
  4. Access to and building a strong infrastructure; and
  5. Developing leadership

The key reason for this is that the needs of a scaling business are more dynamic.  The most common experience is not necessarily that these issues are faced in a linear progression, but that they recur as a business goes through different growth stages as the business adapts to immediate pressures in the face of resource constraints (including management bandwidth). 

The Scale Up Institute report focuses on petitioning government bodies to deliver solutions, but we understand that for those leading fast growing businesses, these long term solutions can come at the cost of short term innovation and growth.

Drawing on scale up and high growth experiences from venture boards to listed companies, we provide strategic support to entrepreneurial teams, including Chair, NED and advisory roles. Our integrated approach combines operational expertise covering leadership, strategy, finance, people, legal and IT.

If you would like a confidential conversation to understand how we might help you, you can contact us on for one of our specialists to get back to you.

Are you a high growth business? 

If you are wondering what a scale up business is, it’s a fair point and is defined by the Scale Up Institute as businesses surpassing the £10m turnover level or with assets of more than £5.1m and sales growth of 15%-20%. The threshold mirrors current financial reporting thresholds that mean this is the first opportunity for those businesses to be visible and in reality, there are many more scale ups – fast growing businesses of substance that fall below these limits but are nonetheless experiencing similar growth challenges. It also means that these are proven businesses who have gone far beyond the MVP and market validation challenges of earlier stage businesses.

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