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Scaling Your SME: Headcount

7/29/2013 11:52:37 AM Posted by Erin Carrather

In our past two blog posts, we’ve talked about the importance of scaling your small to medium business as you continue on a path of high growth. We’ve discussed how it’s important to have a comprehensive understanding of where your company is at in terms of operational effectiveness in order to create a successful strategy to follow. We also discussed the importance of technology in scaling your SME. But, it doesn’t stop there. Equally as crucial in the process of scaling your business is regulating headcount.

It has been argued that in terms of SME growth, scaling the business is just as much about people as it is about forming an operational strategy & using technology to leverage your competitive advantage. The first thing you want to ask yourself is, “Do I have managers currently employed who would know how to run a bigger operation?” Chances are, if an employee has been there and done that in the past, they would be a good resource for scaling headcount of your growing SME. Next, what type of recruiting capabilities do you have? It’s important to have a strong team in charge of recruiting, as they are essentially the individuals who determine the future potential of your company. Your ultimate goal is to attract the best possible talent, without having to settle for second best and a slower company.

SO, what are the keys to success for SMEs looking to attract and retain the best talent while scaling headcount?:

  • Aggressive policy as far as money is concerned
  • Fair compensation compared to competition
  • Including extended training, extra-curricular activities, and on-site health care as part of what you offer them
  • Main focus should be on building a work environment that is challenging yet rewarding
  • Incentives – for example, empowering employees to test new things, new procedures, and new technology in exchange for something that benefits them


It is also important to invest in training while trying to scale headcount. The more learning, development, and induction programs you are able to start up during the initial phases of the process, the more you are able to guarantee that the necessary skills stay with your employees as the business changes. This is not to say that all employees will have the opportunity to be a part of these programs. Unfortunately, some employees who work well in a small firm may not work well in a larger firm, and vice versa. By asking yourself if you have the right people to take you to a bigger and more secure place, you’ll be able to make the proper decisions regarding staff retention and your focus on having the appropriate skills in place to continue on with the next steps in scaling your high-growth business.

You’ll notice that as you start to scale your business, and follow Third Wave’s recommendations, that preserving your company culture might be one of, if not the toughest challenges you will face. Since defining, identifying, and articulating culture in the first place is no easy task, it is critical to figure out what sets you apart from your competition. Company culture needs to be connected with values that people share and has to be built on concepts that people understand.

If you are an SME looking to scale your high-growth organization, spend a lot of time working on the vision of your business. Make it your mission, as a group of people, to share common values and goals. You may face constraints, but countless other SMEs have succeeded in scaling their organizations due to resilience & flexibility, access to tools and new capabilities, and by gaining a competitive advantage. Contact Third Wave today to discuss the next steps in scaling your SME!