Just like the goal of growing a fruit tree is to harvest the fruits, the purpose of starting a business is to make profits and create a positive impact. A business needs to grow to its full potential to maximize profits. The growth phase is not a walk in the park. It plays a significant role in the business’s existence and often negatively affects the entrepreneur’s personal life. This phase contains many challenges that are referred to as business growing pains.
The term “growing pains” refers to temporary difficulties and problems a growing company experiences during a particular stage in its development. This expression derives from the pains in the legs that a growing child feels have no demonstrable relation to growth.
In business literature, the term growing pains has always been perceived to have a negative and dramatic connotation. I have also perceived it with the same attitude for a long time, but after working with entrepreneurs for over 20 years, I changed my viewpoint on growing pains. In this article, I will share my perspective on the importance of growing pains to an entrepreneur, how to successfully sail through them, and how to get back in the driver’s seat during this phase when you may feel like losing control of your business.
Why are growing pains important for entrepreneurs?
If we observe keenly, growing pains are inevitable. For every goal we set, there come challenges and problems. These challenges are not pleasant, and some give a painful sensation. Isn’t that normal? When was the last time you accomplished something worthwhile without having to overcome a problem or challenge? The answer is never, correct?
When we look at the growing pains from the above perspective, there is a clear indication that growing pains are an indication of progress. They can form a basis for reevaluating your decisions to avoid deviation from your original path. Overcoming the growing pains is the salt and pepper of any entrepreneur’s success, joy, and happiness.
Here are some simple examples:
- If you are running short of time to deliver an important project, you decide to put in more hours, and the project is successful. You enjoy the fruits of putting extra time.
- When you realize you need an extra employee, you hire one, and the problem is solved. It gives you the joy of solving the problem.
- If you detect a misunderstanding and disagreements in your team, you take time to sort them out, and the team starts operating with good understanding. You feel the progress.
As we can see, the growing pains are intimately part of the company’s growth. To handle them well, the entrepreneur has to consider them as their allies and use them to grow bigger and achieve their goals. The key concept here is to be able to handle the problem or challenge. If an entrepreneur can control all the growing pains in a timely fashion, they will have evergreen and sustainable company, as represented by the illustration below.
From the above illustration, we can see a journey of an entrepreneur who has been able to handle the growing pains to unlock the true entrepreneurship level.
Phase 1: Conception of the Business Idea
Phase 2: The Business has started growing, and the entrepreneur is working tirelessly to develop systems to sustain the growth. During this phase, he is also looking to assemble a competent team to help with the business.
Phase 3: The entrepreneur has successfully built systems and hired the right people to ensure the business continues to grow and become self-sustainable. At this stage, all the significant challenges are no longer a headache for him as the systems work. He is free to focus on other things as the business continues to flourish. We can say he is already in the driver’s seat of his business.
Phase 4: The entrepreneur has a running business that is transferable. He finds a reliable person who can take over and continue growing the business.
When can growing pains become harmful to a business?
As much as we have noted that growing pains can form a platform for the success of a business, If they are not taken positively and handled appropriately by the entrepreneurs, they can have detrimental effects on a business. Just like when you don’t take the time to fix a small crack in a wall, it can lead to the collapse of the whole building; the growing pains need to be taken care of before they become unmanageable.
For instance, suppose you have generated a high demand for your products or services. You are expected to deliver to clients before a deadline and have worked tirelessly alone for a week or two to meet the demand.
Instead of fixing the demand issue by coming up with a system or hiring a team and training them appropriately, you keep operating with the idea that you must do everything yourself for it to be done correctly. This approach eventually wears you out, and complaints and frustrations kick in. You will have to spend more time putting out fires and working on things you could delegate. Progressively you’ll lose control of the business. The more severe it gets, the bigger the pains you feel. You will lose more business opportunities. Your clients, suppliers, and employees will be more and more frustrated. This makes you hit rock bottom, thinking you cannot do anything about the situation.
Bluntly, at this point, the business is no longer growing but declining. It is incorrect to keep talking about growing pains here. You feel pain at this stage because you have lost control of the situation, and the company is collapsing. It would be correct to talk here about “down-falling pains.”
The diagram below illustrates a scenario where an entrepreneur fails to handle the growing pains of a business appropriately.
Phase 1: Conception of the Business Idea
Phase 2: Business grows, but the entrepreneur fails to come up with effective systems and competent teams to help in the everyday running of the business. He is micromanaging everything, and the company is entirely dependent on him, and if they are not present, everything comes to a standstill.
Phase 3: The business is no longer growing as the entrepreneur is overwhelmed and frustrations build up. The downfall of the business begins at this phase. The business owner is not free to work on other vital things in his life because the company is occupying their life entirely.
Phase 4: The business owner grows old with a declining company. Eventually, the company fails to exist beyond the life of the entrepreneur.
How do you master growing pains and regain control of the company?
If the fundamental problem is losing control, then the solution is as straightforward as gaining back control of the business. When one loses control of the company, they believe that they cannot do anything about it, which makes the situation worse faster. The practical solution to this descent is to direct all efforts to get the entrepreneur’s mindset from “I can’t do anything about it” to “I can do something about it.”
Once the entrepreneur believes this, they will perceive the pain positively and deal with the growing pains with a positive mindset. They will progressively adapt or innovate, reversing the downward trend in the long run, where the business owner can now control the company, not the other way round. The growing pains will now serve as a challenge or stepping stone to creating working systems.
If an entrepreneur can control and handle the challenges, a developing business is throwing at them. The growing pains become beneficial and play a significant role in making the business successful.
If the entrepreneur fails to control and handle the challenges, they become chronic and lead to a downfall when the entrepreneur loses control and starts experiencing the “down-falling pains.” The down-falling pains are harmful as they stop the owner from sleeping at night, eat into the company’s profit, auto-feed themselves, and spread live a virus that affects other parts of the organization and becomes bigger and bigger. The problem becomes systemic and requires a more comprehensive solution to have a comeback, and when unlucky, the company fails to recover completely, leading to closure.
The key to the success of a business is to remain in the driver’s seat by ensuring growing pains are viewed with the correct mindset and dealt with appropriately to avoid losing control of the company. If you are struggling with down-falling pains, you are no longer alone; we can help you reverse the situation by ensuring you turn the down-falling pains into growing pains. Remember having the “I can do something about it” mindset is the key. Handling the growing pains as allies always does the trick.
Let us know your views by leaving a comment below, and you can always reach out to us for help with your business challenges.