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Dream big but act small to realise that dream. How do you eat an elephant? Bite by bite. How do you move a mountain? Shovel by shovel. These are simple truths that play out in every entrepreneur’s everyday life. But is there a way that you can build an enterprise that goes beyond the shovel or the bite? Where you set up a system whereby you can grow without you or even someone else being there to deliver the service? In short, that is the difference between growth and scale.


Here is an insightful talk by Prof Joe Haslam, from last year’s SA Innovation Summit in which he talks about the difference between growth and scale. It will inform your mindset tremendously!

Scale goes like this: slowly, slowly…slowly and then ALL AT ONCE. Investors love scale! Because it can mean 10, 20 50 times return on investment.  


The simplest definition of scale is to say that it means exponential growth. ‘Exponential’ is usually used as an impressive adjective to imply that something is happening fast, and the speed is also increasing. The graph below is an exponential graph. Imagine that it represents your business’s growth over the years. As you can see, in the first six years the growth was slow, but after that, it suddenly increases fivefold in two years. So not only is your growth accelerating, but your accelerating growth is also accelerating.

It is important to think about what you can do in your business that will increase scale by adding value to your customer experience, volume to your business, without proportionally adding to your costs. This is the cleverness of business and it is our job as entrepreneurs to build business models that do this. Scaling is tricky but nothing worthwhile comes easy, right? So, I want to challenge you to really think about your business model and ask whether it is built for scale?. What can you do differently today that will realise a completely different scale of business years down the line? How are you leveraging your data, technology and IP? What assets are you building? Can other people/systems/partners build for you? Can you plug and bring value into something bigger?

I will leave you with these questions as the journey of scale will always be unique for every business. I will value success stories of scale in Africa.

What is your scaling story? What is your scaling challenge? We would love to know and celebrate it. Share your story with us here.

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Random Thoughts of an Entrepreneur Supporting Entrepreneurs

Author: Dr Audrey Verhaeghe – Chairperson, SA Innovation Summit

This thought-leadership article series is written by an entrepreneur sharing her thoughts and experience with other entrepreneurs. This series will explore scaling, investing, the African ecosystem and more.

Keep an eye out every month for Audrey’s random thoughts.

Dr Audrey Verhaeghe is founder and Chairperson of the SA Innovation Summit. She has founder three companies and is currently scaling the SA Innovation Summit into other African countries. Building the ecosystem of founder -led economic activity is her life long mission that she loves and hope to expand year on year.


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