Scaling tips from Jim Roche

Jim Roche knows a thing or two about scaling up a business.

As a founding member of Newbridge Networks, he helped the company grow to more than $1 billion in annual revenue. He then co-founded Tundra Semiconductor, took it public and, as president and CEO, led it to double-digit average annual revenue and profit growth.

He’s now the president and CEO of Stratford Managers, an Ottawa-based management consultancy that itself has been one of the city’s fastest growing companies in recent years.

Earlier this week, Stratford Managers hosted an executive forum and panel discussion on achieving scale at the Museum of Nature.

A panel discussion featured Roche as well as Les Rechan, Halogen Software president and CEO, Jason Flick, You.i TV co-founder and CEO, Julia Knox, Giant Tiger senior vice-president as well as Proslide CFO Erin Crowe.

Here are a few of the main takeaways:

Scale is different than growth: Growth can be simply measured by looking at a company’s numbers. Scale is what you do at those major inflection points.

Retooling is a necessity: Once a company reaches a new plateau, it may need a different group of people, equipped with different skills, than the group that brought the business to that level. And, after the firm grows again, its core team may also need to change again.

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast”: Walk around the offices of a company that’s growing rapidly and it can sometimes be hard to find someone who’s been with the business for an extended period of time. It’s not easy, but corporate leaders need to pay attention to a company’s culture. If it starts to fray or become diluted, a company’s strategy will become almost secondary. Make sure that “soak-in” can happen so that newcomers to the organization can help build the processes and capabilities that allow the company to reach the next level.