Growth vs Scaling: The Importance of Moats and Scalable Processes


Hatched by Glasp

Sep 22, 2023

4 min read


Growth vs Scaling: The Importance of Moats and Scalable Processes


In the world of business, growth and scaling are two commonly discussed concepts. While growth refers to the linear increase in revenue through the addition of resources, scaling is the ability to increase revenue without a substantial increase in resources. Both growth and scaling are crucial for the success of a company, but understanding the difference between them and knowing when to implement each strategy is key. Additionally, building moats, or barriers that protect a business from competition, is essential for companies experiencing rapid success. In this article, we will explore the significance of growth, scaling, and moats in the context of startups and young companies.

The Importance of Scaling for Startups:

For startups, scaling is often the primary focus due to its potential for exponential growth without incurring significant costs. Achieving scale allows companies to add customers and revenue exponentially while keeping costs at a manageable level. This ability to scale is especially critical when a company reaches a stage where it has achieved product-market fit and is ready for exponential growth. However, it is important to note that scaling comes with its own set of challenges and risks. Several studies have shown that two-thirds of the fastest-growing companies ultimately fail. Slow-growing companies, on the other hand, tend to fare better in the long run. This highlights the need for careful consideration and strategic decision-making when it comes to scaling a business.

The Role of Processes in Scaling:

One essential aspect of scaling a company is the establishment of scalable processes. Processes that scale are those that can be performed en masse without requiring additional effort. It is crucial for businesses to assess whether their expense policies, employee onboarding strategies, and core values are scalable. Often, as companies grow, there is a risk of losing sight of core values and muddling the vision. Renewing dedication to core values helps attract the best talent and ensures a clear path for continued scaling. Additionally, as businesses grow, it becomes necessary to delegate day-to-day operations to others and focus on strategic questions. This transition requires the development of repeatable and predictable systems, as well as effective process management.

The Significance of Moats:

Moats, or barriers that protect a business' margins from competition, become increasingly important as companies experience success and growth. Startups, especially those with the best products, talented individuals, and rapid growth, should focus on building moats to safeguard their position in the market. Hamilton Helmer identifies seven types of moats, including economies of scale, network effects, counter-positioning, switching costs, brand, cornered resource, and process power. These moats help maintain a competitive advantage and protect a company's profitability in the face of competition.

Knowing When to Dig a Moat:

Building moats should be a strategic consideration for startups and young companies. However, it is crucial to understand that moats alone cannot guarantee success. A company must first achieve product-market fit before investing in moats. Uncertainty is the initial moat that keeps competition at bay long enough for other moats to be built. The more obvious and easy it is to replicate an idea, the faster a company needs to dig moats. On the other hand, if an idea is novel and complex, there is more time available to develop and strengthen moats.


In conclusion, both growth and scaling are significant for the success of startups and young companies. While growth focuses on adding resources and increasing revenue, scaling allows for exponential revenue growth with minimal resource investment. Implementing scalable processes, renewing dedication to core values, and delegating day-to-day operations are crucial steps in achieving successful scaling. Additionally, building moats becomes essential as a company experiences success and growth. By understanding the importance of growth, scaling, and moats, companies can navigate the challenges of the business world and position themselves for long-term success.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Assess the scalability of your expense policies, employee onboarding strategies, and core values to ensure they can withstand rapid growth.
  • 2. Develop repeatable and predictable systems to delegate day-to-day operations and focus on strategic questions.
  • 3. Prioritize building moats once you have achieved product-market fit and consider the level of uncertainty surrounding your idea to determine the depth of moats needed.

Remember, success in the business world requires a balance between growth, scaling, and the establishment of moats. By strategically implementing these concepts, startups and young companies can thrive in a competitive landscape.

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