Doctena: Secrets Of Scaling A Successful SaaS

Alain Fontaine, pictured, is CEO of Doctena

Alain Fontaine is CEO of medical professional appointment booking platform Doctena. He shares what his startup under-estimated when it came to scaling. 

Management style

While it might work in the early days when a company’s team is small and inexperienced, “scaling a business and micromanagement don’t go together,” says Doctena CEO Alain Fontaine. He recommends installing strong middle management, “people you trust and people you actually also delegate things to.”

Scalable processes

“In my eyes, it’s very important to think about and actually implement scalable processes and tools before you start your actual business scaling,” says Fontaine, adding: “I’ve seen situations where people said: ‘let’s double our sales force so that we can double our revenue.’ When you do that you run into a wall.”

Fontaine recommends reflecting on the important processes and tools before you “launch your army onto the battlefield.” Without this strong foundation, founders will find themselves wasting time later fixing or working with non-existent processes. 

Nail it on your home turf first

If startups have struggled to break even in the Luxembourg market, they should not assume that by expanding abroad they will suddenly become profitable. “You first need to nail it on your home turf in Luxembourg,” Fontaine says, adding that when going abroad founders are confronted with a tremendous number of challenges they wouldn’t have foreseen.

He says: “If you are already struggling in Luxembourg, it will not work out. It will just make all of the existing bad things worse and it will add new bad things. So it’s a recipe for failure.”

Company culture

Fontaine says that when expanding a team from 15 to 100 employees, founders should be careful to embed their HR framework into the company culture. Examining company values, mission and vision are critical for creating a culture and uniting staff in different jurisdictions under a single brand. 

Customer retention

Fontaine has seen founders become preoccupied with growing customers over retaining them. He says: “First, work on customer retention and once you have mastered that you’re confident to be able to add more customers.”

Keep overall strategic goal in mind

Asking questions like where does the company want to be in three, five or 10 years can be helpful in keeping one eye on the prize, to avoid being bogged down by the new complexities that scaling throws out. Fontaine says: “You get so pulled in and absorbed by this need to grow that you lose the big picture. And then you just start doing day to day management kind of things. And that’s not so good.”

Drive partnerships 

Part of Doctena’s expansion successes can be credited to the partnerships it forged with external stakeholders. “Even if at first sight, it feels like you’re giving away control or you’re losing some of your profit margins, overall, developing strong partnerships is something that’s very important to help you go into new markets, because it takes away some of the challenges you would have,” says Fontaine. 

You may have mastered the processes and regulations around establishing a startup in Luxembourg. Now, be prepared for regulatory and legal changes abroad. He says: “When you go to Germany, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland all of a sudden, you’re confronted with regulations and legal stuff that you have never heard of. So you need to make room for all of these matters in your plan.” 

Learn from failure

Failure is part of scaling but it is only fatal when a founder doesn’t learn from it. Fontaine says: “You will have failures and while scaling is often seen as a linear process in which you just add more money, more resources and move quicker, in reality, that’s not how it works.” The CEO recommends having a driving statement that allows founders to adapt their course relatively quickly. He says: “You need to accept that of all the things that you have put into your fantastic business plan, probably more than half of them will not happen.”

This article was originally published in the 2023 SaaS issue of Silicon Luxembourg.

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