The importance of a clear path for growth

Scaling a business is invariably a challenging journey, but with the right approach and support, it can lead to significant growth. Doing so requires a clear plan, a strong team, agility and strong stakeholder communication, according to a panel of female business leaders from Inflexion’s portfolio.

Having a clear growth plan which all stakeholders can align on is at the heart of every successful scaling strategy. Complexity can hinder progress, so simplifying the plan can help everyone stay on track.

Easier said than done. Jemma Hodson found this when she joined Chambers and Partners, an information services provider to the legal sector, in 2019. “When I started, the business had just undergone a big exercise to identify new sources for growth,” she recalls. Chambers’ core offering is its world-renowned legal rankings and directory, but there were a number of credible new adjacencies being considered. “There were a lot of exciting new options on the table but there were differing views across stakeholders and there wasn’t a clear plan for growth in the core”. Coming from a strategy background, she was confident a critical part of strategy is what you don’t do as well as what you do do.   

“Inflexion were very much on board and engaged with our decision to go back to the drawing board to build a thorough fact base to really understand our market position, customer needs and growth / profitability drivers, and assess the full list of expansion opportunities across our core and existing / potential new adjacencies,” Jemma explained. “After going through this process we were able to make a series of fact-based strategic choices, including a decision to double down on the core and existing adjacency optimisation and cross-sell.”

“This would not only protect our business from complexity, but it also afforded ample headroom for growth. It was really important for us to take a step back during this process to give ourselves the room to see the wider picture. Getting stakeholder buy-in was easy once we had the fact base as the data was so compelling and stakeholders had been very involved in the process. The end result was a clear and simple plan that we could communicate to the broader organisation with full alignment and conviction.”

The path was more straightforward for Nikki Whitfield at Upperton Pharma Solutions, a specialist contract development and manufacturing organisation with expertise in particle engineering for the pharmaceutical industry. The case was crystal clear – Upperton needed to develop large scale manufacturing capabilities.

“We were in an exciting position as one of the few players left who haven’t been swallowed up by big pharma. This meant we got to work with a range of clients on interesting projects, but it also meant we didn’t have the capacity to scale into wholesale manufacturing. We would develop a really fantastic product and then have to hand it over to a larger player to produce,” Nikki lamented.

Upperton didn’t have the financial means to build on their own, and this inspired the partnership with Inflexion.

“With Inflexion’s backing since 2022, Upperton are now building a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility – one of the best in the country – which will enable them to see a product through to delivery. “We have also drastically professionalised the core of the business. Hiring a great CFO who really understood the business and is culturally aligned has made a really big difference to the way we work.”

Invest in your people and culture

Building the right team is essential, so it is key to invest time to find the right people who will support the company's growth journey. While technical expertise is important, recruiting for cultural fit is equally crucial for long-term success.

Taking on private equity investment can be a transformational change for many businesses, as Lilia Santos from Medik8 explained. The premium skincare brand partnered with Inflexion in early 2021 and underwent a time of significant growth with 75 net new roles added in the financial year to 2022.

“We suddenly had a lot of new people, which was amazing on one hand – new energy and new skills and a new environment. We also had an entirely new digital infrastructure. But at the same time, we needed to be strong in the growth journey we believed in and to form a strong and formalised set of values,” Lilia recalls. It meant they had to be agile with the new community they were forming and understand how it was going to scale. “You also need to look back and take stock of where you are growing, to make sure you have the right skills in the right places. It was very helpful to have Inflexion’s in-house talent team in this regard. You must be able to ask for help when you need it,” Lilia adds.

Nikki concurs with the sentiment that everything seems to happen at once. “We were trebling in size every year and had to get all the new team and the old guard on the same journey.” Upperton had to invest in finances as the old systems started to crease, creating a balancing act to keep the ship stable. “So it was important for us to understand the whole picture of where we were investing in systems and our people. We recruited for expertise as well as our culture, it took longer, but was worth it in the long term,” Nikki recalls.  

Inflexion has always had a diverse and inclusive workforce, aiming to attract, develop, retain, and promote the best possible talent from a range of backgrounds and experience. The firm is proud to have over 40% of employees female and 20% from ethnic minority backgrounds. We believe this draws out broader thinking and inspires livelier discussion. We are similarly committed to promoting D&I across our portfolio and ensuring our wider network is diverse, with 38% of employees across the portfolio female.