Entrepreneurship 101: Growing Pains

Lesson 11: Growing Pains


Growing pains

Many enthusiastic entrepreneurs want to hit the ground running. Launching your business will be an exciting time for you and your team, and you’re probably wondering how you can keep up the momentum.

This will be tricky at times, especially when your team runs into roadblocks. You won’t always know what to expect as your business starts to grow. What will progress look like for your company? And what will it look like for you?

Here are some pointers for growing your business in a manageable way, as well as growing on both a personal and professional level as an entrepreneur.  

Growing the business

  • Decide if fast or careful growth is right for you. Successful startups tend to grow very quickly—this comes with the territory. And some entrepreneurs just assume that faster growth is automatically a mark of achievement. But you need to make sure your company can keep up with the demand! For example, you don’t want to be stuck in a position where you can’t fill orders or have to compromise on your product’s quality.
  • Keep an eye on market changes. While you can control what goes on in your business, there are external factors that you can’t control, like the market. Maybe it becomes oversaturated, or filled with too many competitors. If that’s the case, think about how you can improve your business model—or consider creating an entirely new market (known as a blue ocean).
  • Pay back early investors. If your inner circle or other investors played a financial role in your success, they should receive a return on their investment. This doesn’t just refer to repaying loans, but also dividends, or portions of your company’s profit. You are legally obligated to do so if you have a contract on paper. But even if you received money from family or a friend with no expectation of repayment, spreading the wealth will be rewarding on a personal level.
  • Check in with employees and customers. Maybe you’re dealing with declining sales or staffing challenges, and you’re trying to figure out why. Remember that your employees and customers are two of your best sources of information. Listening to feedback will allow you to identify your business’s barriers to success. In addition, consistently putting yourself in others’ shoes will show that you care about your customers and your team.
  • Recognize when your business has "matured." Businesses have a life cycle. After the growth stage comes the maturity stage, when growth has slowed down and sales are steady. This might be a good time to involve capable employees in the decision-making process. Increasing their level of responsibility, such as letting them run staff meetings, will prove that you trust them. It also frees up your time to focus on other areas of potential growth. 

Growing as an entrepreneur

  • Don’t spread yourself too thin. It’s easy to get wrapped up in your work, especially during the growth stage. While this phase might require you to work longer hours in the short-term, you don’t want to end up spreading yourself too thin. If you don’t maintain a work-life balance, this could potentially lead to burnout. Burnout refers to running out of energy. If you aren’t sleeping and eating properly, you could get physically—and mentally—exhausted. It’s good to have loyal employees, but insist that they maintain a healthy work-life balance, too.

  • Capitalize on your strengths. In the business world, "capitalizing on your strengths" means focusing on what you (or your company) do well, and then harnessing that energy to drive your team forward. While it’s important to identify your weaknesses, don’t become overly focused on them. Are you a persuasive salesperson? Do you have an employee who’s very artistic? Maintaining your enthusiasm and recognizing opportunities will help to set a positive tone for your team. 
  • Let go of the ego! Having good self-esteem is essential, especially when you’re an entrepreneur who needs to take risks. But self-awareness is just as crucial when you’re leading a company. The problem with having too much pride is that it can lead to blind spots, or trouble seeing a problem. You don’t want your team to think you’re out of touch. If your employees point out an aspect of your business model that isn’t working—even one you feel passionately about—you need to know when to move in a different direction.
  • Build “social capital.” As an entrepreneur, you want to have a network that’s there to support you. Social capital refers to the human connections that you make. You might form bonds with employees, investors, or customers. As your business grows, think about how you can help out others. Your company can give back to the community, such as donating to a good cause. Or maybe you could mentor another entrepreneur who is just starting on their journey. These would be forms of social capital which benefit both you and others.
  • Think about future plans. It’s never too early to envision the company’s future—and yours! Take note of employees who demonstrate leadership qualities. They might be able to move up in the company later on, or even take over for you if you retire.

In conclusion

Being an entrepreneur means seizing an opportunity to shape the world we live in. Careful planning is essential, but you will also learn as you go. There will always be a degree of trial-and-error involved in starting your own company. Celebrate the small successes, and don’t lose sight of the big picture.

The most important thing is to enjoy the process. If you put your heart into it, you can potentially grow your business and grow as a person. As radio and TV writer Andy Rooney once said: “Everyone wants to live on the top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it.”