You have built a successful something. (A business, project, campaign, whatever.) You have sacrificed – are sacrificing – sleep, fresh air, your social life, to make it happen. And it is taking off, like a jet engine. Demands on you and your time are increasing; pressure is mounting; and you know you are on the cusp of something big. You feel a thrill in your bones… and beneath that, apprehension and fear.

You attribute the fear to a shortage of self-confidence, or maybe just anxiety that the stakes are going up. I got this, though, you tell yourself. I’ve come this far. Maybe you believe that, and maybe you don’t.

Here’s the thing: Yes, you are likely experiencing some self-doubt that could stand to be addressed. And there is also something else going on. Something big that needs your attention right now.

You are on the steep upward slope of what the business world calls scaling. And to scale successfully, you need more than a boost of self-confidence.

In my personal experience as an entrepreneur, and in advising other business and nonprofit leaders, I’ve observed four* key things that need to be in place in order to scale up gracefully:

  1. Enough self-awareness and vulnerability to face your fears.
  2. A people plan.
  3. Systems – technological & human – that can take you from here to the next level.
  4. Absolute confidence that your revenue model is ready for prime time.

You must address all four of these things to allay those nagging doubts. Notice how three of them are external (revenue, systems, people) and one is internal? I see a lot of business experts talking about external systems without addressing the personal side, or vice versa – and I don’t find that helpful. In my experience, you can’t create a solid people plan until you’ve made your peace with your fears around leadership and delegation – ​and ​know a few things about writing job descriptions, interviewing people, and managing effectively. Nor can you get a grip on your pricing until you’ve faced your relationship with money – ​and ​have a clear strategy for your positioning and marketing, and have crunched the numbers to make sure they add up.

I’ll tackle each of these in a separate blog post. In the meantime, let me know if you think I’ve overlooked a key component in my list up there – you can let me know in the comments, or on Twitter (I’m @laurenbacon).

This is the first post in a series on scaling up. I’m still working on writing the whole series, but you can read the other installments here:


* There are, I’m sure, more than four things that belong here. People have written entire books on how to scale. These are the four that have been on my mind lately, as I’ve been advising entrepreneurs who are wrestling with how to scale their businesses.