RSPA Recommended Read: Scaling Up

“RSPA Recommended Read” is a series of articles in which RSPA staff members share details from books we think would be helpful to leaders and aspiring leaders at VAR, MSP, ISV, and vendor member organizations.

By: Jim Roddy, VP of Sales & Marketing at the RSPA

Building my list of “must read” books is among my easier self-development tasks. I don’t conduct a lick of research; I just listen to what RSPA members recommend and add those titles to my list. Deciding to read Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It … and Why the Rest Don’t was especially easy because two successful RSPA leaders raved to me about the book. Hunter Allen of Cervion Systems and Andrew Kurtz of Vigilix are fans of Verne Harnish’s work, Kurtz publishing an article for the RSPA Community IQ Resource Center (Scaling Up – Book Review & Use Case) in 2017.

With all that’s happened in 2020, you might not be thinking about scaling your business – but you should. Many RSPA VAR and ISV members are using the economic disruption to their business, their customers, their markets, and the world in general to innovate and reposition their organization for significant growth in 2021.

Some of my favorite passages from Scaling Up include:

  1. Start up, Scale up, Screw up … or Stall out (fail to scale)! This sequence describes the life cycle of most businesses as they move up the S-shaped curve of growth.
  2. Senior leaders know they have succeeded in building an organization that can scale — and is fun to run — when they are the dumbest people in the room.
  3. Three barriers to scaling up: leadership, scalable infrastructure, and marketing.
  4. The most successful business leaders have a clear vision and the disciplines (routines) to make it a reality.
  5. Are the stakeholders (employees, customers, shareholders) happy and engaged in the business; and would you “rehire” all of them?
  6. The growth paradox: the belief that as you scale the company things should get easier, but they don’t. Things actually get harder and more complicated. Expanding from three to four people grows the team only 33% yet complexity may increase 400%.
  7. To get to 10 employees, founders must delegate activities in which they are weak. To get to 50 employees, they have to delegate functions in which they are strong.
  8. The main function of a business leader: to build a predictable revenue and profit engine in an unpredictable marketplace and world.
  9. The spoils of victory go to those who maintain a steady pace, day in and day out, in all kinds of weather and storms.

Visit the RSPA Solution Center – a web platform designed to connect VARs and ISVs to providers of innovative solutions

  1. Keep everyone as close to his or her respective customers as possible.
  2. Delegate to leaders who pass two tests (including culture fit): they don’t need to be managed and they regularly wow the team with their insights and output.
  3. If your competitive advantage depends on your people creating something valuable and distinctive, then your workforce can’t be normal.
  4. Periodic one-on-one coaching (rather than superior technical knowledge) ranked as the #1 key to being a successful leader.
  5. One great person can replace three good ones. Get the absolute best talent in the door, pay them above-market rates, and then invest heavily in training and development to make them more productive.
  6. In order to keep your company competitive and your people loyal, you must grow them through education and coaching. This investment in people is the biggest single predictor of a company’s ability to beat its direct competitors and the overall market.

RSPA Recommended Read Rating: 9.0/10

As I was writing this blog, I conducted my third Strategy Session with a high-initiative RSPA VAR member. He didn’t spend any time griping about market conditions. He was mono-focused on actions he could take to expand as fast as appropriate. Among his past and planned actions:

  • Reading leadership/management books to improve his knowledge and skills
  • Attending online conferences, webinars, and meet-ups (including RSPA Retail IT Community Roundtables and RSPA Academy education sessions) to stay up-to-date on his industry
  • Establishing vendor partnerships that can expand as his business grows
  • Shoring up the ecommerce portion of his business – his fastest growing revenue stream
  • Hiring for key positions including an ecommerce expert and marketing team members
  • Establishing partnership with sales organizations, helping him grow through referrals until he’s ready to hire a full-time sales rep
  • Investing in more marketing labor, including a telemarketing effort to generate more leads for his sales partners

This reseller is efforting to overcome Scaling Up’s three barriers to growth: leadership, scalable infrastructure, and marketing. If you’re not focusing on those three areas, where are you spending your time? If you’re thinking you’re too busy with life and your day-to-day duties (that’s a common response I hear), maybe one more quote from Scaling Up will push you in the right direction: “Growth companies are good at getting a lot of things done. The worst thing you can do is get a massive amount of the wrong things done.”

Purchase your copy of Scaling Up here.

Don’t forget to visit the RSPA Solution Center – a web platform designed to connect VARs and ISVs to providers of innovative solutions

Jim Roddy is the Vice President of Sales & Marketing for the Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA). He has been active in the POS channel since 1998, including 11 years as the President of Business Solutions Magazine, six years as an RSPA board member, one term as RSPA Chairman of the Board, and several years as a business coach for VARs, ISVs, and MSPs. Jim is regularly requested to speak at industry conferences and he is author of The Walk-On Method To Career & Business Success and Hire Like You Just Beat Cancer. For more information, contact