Growing Pains When Businesses Grow Up

There is a unique energy to start up businesses fuelled by passion for the new venture, the excitement of those first wins, and a big dose of adrenaline. Business founders reflecting at the end of their first or second year of trading tell us that growth and success obviously brings huge satisfaction but also a new set of challenges. With success comes a whole new range of decisions such as future direction, whether to diversify into new services or product offers or whether the premises the business is operating from are still fit for purpose. As businesses grow they find themselves with a different set of competitors to consider or different requirements of the suppliers they use. They might find themselves on the list of potential suppliers for bigger organisations with different demands in terms of policies and procedures. There will certainly be a more complicated financial picture to think about as businesses develop and the headache of cashflow can be a painful one!

With a growing business come decisions around the team. A crossroads many business founders find themselves at is when to recruit more staff and at what level. The existing team might be starting to feel that the pressure of work is relentless but the decision to recruit new staff and add significantly to overheads is always a difficult one with questions around whether the current wave of success will continue and what if it doesn’t. And of course recruitment is time consuming but has to be done right – choosing the wrong new recruit, particularly in a small team, can be damaging. All business leaders hope for the new employee who seamlessly fits into the current structure and hits the ground running but the reality is that new people need a thorough induction and training in order to give their best to a business and this takes time. There is also likely to be more HR support needed as teams grow.

As well as all these practical decisions there are less tangible considerations to be taken into account too. The one which many business founders talk about is what happens to company culture with growth. In a small tight team who have been part of the venture from day one there is an understanding, an energy and a way of communicating which happens naturally. There is a shared mission which hardly needs articulating and a feeling almost of family or at least of a group of friends. As new people join the culture has to shift, it has to find a way to include new people, it has to keep the energy of the start up but has to develop. Business leaders have to give the company culture attention in a way they probably didn’t need to when the business was very small. They might have to think about team activities and ways of bringing people together, they will have to ensure that whatever the company values are they are actually lived in the day to day of the business.

And of course the role of the business founder changes as the business grows. Instead of being able to be involved in all of the day to day of the business a different type of leadership is required. Many start up leaders say that they find delegation a challenge meaning that they are torn between dealing with the day to day and giving attention to the long term strategic demands of the business.

Growing pains are part of the journey to success and an inevitable part of doing business. The best business leaders are good at adapting to the new realities of their business and skilled at helping their teams to adapt too. They are also good at realising when support, advice and mentorship can be really valuable.

Our team at Konnect for Business have founded and built businesses. We know all about the triumphs and the challenges so please get in touch for a chat if you think we might be able to help.