Every business is scalable – from the neighborhood restaurant to the one-person IT startup. The principal difference between a business that grows beyond its initial four walls and one that doesn’t is the vision of the owner.

Joe Bartolotta

Joe Bartolotta, President & Co-Owner, The Bartolotta Restaurants

Let’s consider Joe Bartolotta, who needs no introduction. I met him in 1995 when he and his brother owned a restaurant in Wauwatosa. We met over coffee at his place and he sketched a plan in the air with his demitasse spoon for a new concept, which today we all know as Lake Park Bistro. He sold us on the idea and concept – his vision – without a 20-page business plan. At present, he has over 1,000 employees and owns or manages 15 restaurants and unique dining concepts with four more set to open in the next six months. Being labor and talent dependent, his business model is complex to replicate, but he has found additional growth opportunities by developing partnerships so he can leverage his most important asset – his intellectual capital and vision. That’s what entrepreneurs do: find opportunities to leverage key competencies in order to grow.

Rupesh Agrawal

Rupesh Agrawal

Rupesh Agrawal, currently general manager of digital platform solutions for Perficient, Inc., a St. Louis-based technology company, accomplished a different type of scale. After graduating from Milwaukee School of Engineering, Rupesh founded Zeon Solutions, an e-commerce development company focused on the business-to-business market, in 2003. He grew Zeon from a one- to five- to 400-plus-person team worldwide in the short 12 years that followed. Rupesh’s vision was to structure Zeon with business development and project management disciplines based in its Milwaukee headquarters and programming activities in India, his home country. Along with building the core competencies of the team he assembled, Rupesh also recognized the value of growth through acquiring other development firms that added the business-to-consumer capabilities Zeon desired. Rupesh’s work earned Zeon a reoccurring spot on the Inc. 5000 list, and he was able to sell his business to Perficient in 2015. The teams he built from the ground up remain in Milwaukee and India.

Joe and Rupesh work really hard, like all business owners. Their determination and instinct have driven them to groundbreaking accomplishments – and they’re not done. Are you considering making some break out business moves? Check your gut and your head – and then consider these questions:

  • What drives you?
  • What is your vision for your company?
  • What qualities do you and your leadership team need to expand to new markets and new geographies?
  • How do you define quality of life?
  • Where do you want to see yourself and your business in five and 10 years?
  • Do you have access to financial resources?
  • Do you have a good support network of external advisors?

The answers to these questions will help you determine the potential and pace of your growth. In addition to the grit and sweat involved, Joe and Rupesh would be quick to credit the importance of your leadership team and advisors. A solid network of peers and advisors provides a critical sounding board and objective perspective. That’s a topic for the next article in our series on growing in a no-growth economy.