When it comes to scaling a small business, business leaders are often faced with a problem – should they prioritize rapid growth or focus on long-term sustainability?

Rapid Growth: Seizing Opportunities

Expanding rapidly can be a desirable strategy for businesses wanting to swiftly seize market share. This tactic can entail vigorously increasing manufacturing, launching new products or services, or developing new marketing campaigns to acquire new clientele. 

Advantages of rapid expansion include:

  • Enhanced market control and brand visibility
  • Economies of scale leading to cost reduction
  • Accelerated journey towards profitability and scalability

If rapid expansion were feasible, I believe most businesses would opt for it. However, it is important to consider the associated expenses. 

Where can businesses obtain capital to design a fancy new product, triple manufacturing, or penetrate a new market?

An article published by Daniel Isenberg and Daniel Lawton from Harvard Business Review highlights the story of Tom Szaky, founder of TerraCycle, a recycling business. After making a deal with Walmart Canada to launch TerraCycle products in every Walmart location, Szaky was stuck in a bind. 

TerraCycle lacked the groundwork to manage the substantial surge in volume. Luckily, Szaky already established the financial foundation with support from suppliers, equity investors, and other stakeholders to handle the surge. 

Though Szaky’s story is one of success, other businesses may not be as prepared. Imagine being a gym equipment firm that decides to rapidly expand- then boom! The COVID-19 pandemic hits and all the gyms shut down.  

Businesses can struggle to maintain quality control and operational efficiency if scaled too fast, and overextending resources can lead to unsustainable growth. 

Sustainable Scaling: Laying the Groundwork

In contrast, sustainable scaling can build strong, resilient businesses to withstand market fluctuations. This strategy relies on developing robust systems, processes, and infrastructure to support growth. 

Advantages of sustainable scaling include

  • Enhanced operational efficiency and cost management
  • Elevated levels of customer satisfaction and loyalty
  • Adaptability to evolving market dynamics

Sustainable growth may pose more challenges than rapid growth. 

In the process of scaling, achieving sustainable growth means withstanding market fluctuations, regulatory changes, and ensuring long-term viability without sacrificing environmental or social responsibility.

While sustainable scaling may not achieve the same level of rapid growth, it emphasizes more stable and profitable expansion over time. By focusing on building a robust groundwork, businesses can set themselves up for sustained success while reducing the chances of stretching resources too thin.


By carefully navigating the trade-offs between rapid growth and sustainable scaling, businesses can position themselves for enduring success in a dynamic and competitive marketplace.


Article by
Zoe Maung
Content Writer and Researcher

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