Life Vs. Business Goals: ScaleUp Academy Podcast Recap

On Monday 24 September 2018, Cognism’s CEO, James Isilay, took part in ScaleUp Academy’s ScaleUp Heroes podcast. ScaleUp Academy is an online platform for business leaders to share their advice and experience in growing companies from the ground up. As the founder of one of the fastest growing tech startups in London, James was well-placed to participate in this insightful and educational talk.

Alongside James, the other participants were:

  • Miguel Dias, CEO at ScaleUp Academy [Moderator].

  • Ryan Foland, Managing Partner at Influence Tree [Host]. InfluenceTree is a company that provides education and training on how to grow your personal or business brand.

  • Mark Koh, CEO, and co-founder at Supahands. Supahands is a service that helps companies scale and increases productivity through the outsourcing of tedious and repetitive business processes.

  • Jamie Ward, CEO, and co-founder at PayAsUGym. PayAsUGym is the UK's leading fitness marketplace, offering discounted flexible access to more than 2,800 fitness venues across the UK.

The topic under discussion was “How to manage business scaling and maintain a good work-life balance.” As the CEOs of tech startups that have scaled successfully, the contributors all had plenty to say on this subject!

Key Takeaways

1. Hire the Right People

The participants agreed that at the beginning of a startup company’s life, your life is your business. For a CEO or founder, it’s challenging to find a decent work-life balance during the critical early stages of a business. In the beginning, the CEO will often be the startup’s sole employee, with all decisions taken on a personal, individual level.

The key to turning this around, and aligning the needs of your private life with your business goals, is to recruit the right people. When scaling up, a business leader must be able to delegate tasks to other people. Finding the right senior management team, and trusting them to do the job, is the most important step. A growth-stage company needs passionate people to keep the energy and momentum of the business going.

Having a product that works is good - but even better is having good people behind the scenes!

2. Create the Right Culture

When a business starts to grow, it’s very important to develop the right culture. The CEOs agreed that an equal amount of time should be allocated to setting up the company culture as to recruiting the right people. Put aside some time in the diary to think about brand messaging and values. What kind of company do you want yours to be?

Training and progression management for staff are essential areas to consider. James correctly identified that startups provide people with the opportunity to progress in their careers a lot further and faster than at corporates. This kind of career acceleration gives employees energy and inspiration, which is important because working at a scale-up company can be more stressful than working at larger enterprise companies. The pace is quicker, the products and services evolve at a much faster rate, the volume of new clients being taken on can become overwhelming and consequently, there’s a lot more pressure.

Creating the right culture offsets a great deal of that stress, and makes your employees want to go the extra mile.

3. Keep Communication Open

As a business scales and grows, it’s imperative for leaders to keep communication as open as possible. The podcasters acknowledged the importance of listening to your employees and making sure you always have time for them. James believed that having a top-down hierarchical structure was no good, that it was better to encourage ideas and promote dynamism across the team.

A good piece of advice is once you’ve identified your business goals, keep communicating with your staff so that everyone’s on the same page.

Team meetings are important but James stressed the value of other activities, from one-on-one talks to having nights-out to celebrate wins.


So that was Cognism’s contribution to the ScaleUp Heroes podcast. To watch the full talk and gain even more insights and inspirations, click here.

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