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The Scaling Lie No One Admits: Bigger Doesn’t Always Mean Better

Let’s get brutally honest. The startup world glorifies size as the ultimate success metric. Bigger revenue, bigger headcount, bigger valuations… We’re told scaling is synonymous with getting BIG. But I call bullsh*t.

Hands up if you have had one of the following (or probably all) fired at you.

  1. “Why aren’t you in [X] market yet? That’s where the real opportunity is.” (Implies growth = geographic expansion, even if premature)

  2. “Your competitor just landed a massive funding round. Time to catch up!” (Fueled by comparison, disregards different business models/goals)

  3. “You need to be aiming for unicorn status.” (Obsession with billion-dollar valuations, unrealistic for the vast majority of businesses)

  4. “If you’re not growing exponentially, you’re stagnant.” (Ignores that healthy growth trajectories have phases, and sustainable pace matters)

  5. “Growth solves all problems.” (Dangerous myth! Scaling often magnifies existing flaws if you’re not operationally sound). Also I love when people say this, because it must be like saying money solves all problems or some other rubbish people buzz out there.

As both a founder and a current NED and Chairman across multiple companies, I’ve seen this firsthand. Shareholder demands for rapid scaling push promising companies off the rails. Profitability evaporates, customer experience degrades, and founders drown in a sea of new hires they can no longer directly inspire. This relentless growth focus masks deep cracks and sacrifices what made companies remarkable in the first place.

I’ve felt the sting myself. In a past venture, fixating on a rapid expansion plan cost us focus on product refinement, alienated top talent, and made innovation almost impossible.

But it’s not just about founder missteps. I had one particular shareholder email me repeatedly about why the CEO of the company wasn’t moving quickly enough on the scaling side. This knee-jerk reaction to shareholder pressure ended up damaging much of the progress we’d built, taking significantly longer to rectify than the perceived gains from hasty growth.

Let’s be real: Scaling doesn’t automatically deliver a stronger bottom line, happier clients, or better product-market fit. Too often, it creates chaos, bloat, and an identity crisis far more dangerous than simply staying small.

So, before mindlessly chasing “bigger”, ask yourself:

  • Am I willing to sacrifice quality at the altar of growth?

  • Can our culture withstand a vastly expanded organization?

  • What problems will “scaling” create that I’m unprepared to solve?

In my upcoming book, yet to be titled but probably “The Scaleup Rules” original hey! lol , I unpack the scaling strategies that truly elevate a business — ones centered on sustainable growth, operational excellence, and protecting the core magic that attracted your customer base in the first place.

Are you a growth-at-all-costs advocate? Have you witnessed “bigger” destroy a promising company? Let’s blow up the scaling hype train in the comments.

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