Growing Pains: How To Deal With The Stresses Of A Growing Company
Your company has started to grow at an unprecedented pace, and you don’t know how to keep up.\
Growing pains are a good problem to have. Growth means you have greater sales, investments, resources, marketing, and visibility.
You need growth. But if you grow too fast, you can outgrow your resources.
If a flower isn’t growing, it’s dying. But a flower can’t grow in a pot that’s too small.
That’s why planning for growth is so critical. You need a plan to re-pot your plant as it grows. You may need to move the pot to a new place to keep up with its development.
The same is true of your business. So many small businesses go under because their unexpected progress overcomes and suffocates them.
Rapid growth can be a unique and stressful challenge. You’re not sure what growth looks like or how to handle the new scale moving forward.
So what can you do to calmly and effectively handle the growth of your company without going under?
1. Understand your growth.
One of the biggest reason growing companies go belly-up is that they don’t actually address their growth head on. Owners assume that because the business is growing now that it will continue to grow moving forward.
That’s almost never the case, though. You want to understand where the growth is coming from so you can nurture your growth and plan for any roadblocks.
What’s causing your growth?
Pinpointing what is causing your development will help you determine how you’ll make future decisions. It can also become your unique differentiator against your competition.
What could hinder your growth? Understanding potential roadblocks allow you to create a “plan B” management strategy to help mitigate risk.
For example, maybe you started seeing exponential growth because your influencer social media campaign had major success. You received more visibility, which leads to more sales. Now you’re suddenly getting an influx of first-time and repeat sales.
That means three things. The first is that you need to nurture your relationship with that influencer and their fans. You want to continue utilizing similar marketing tactics in order to see continuous growth upwards. (But don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. It could be a one-and-done tactic, so keep that in mind as well.)
The second is that your logistics need to strengthen to keep up with sales. An influx of sales is great—but not if your operations can’t keep up with it. You need to have enough inventory, shipping, labels, etc. Make sure that the other departments of your business can keep up with that area of growth.
The third is that those sales might drop off. You saw a major boost thanks to the influencer, but that might not last. You’ll want to create a strategy to nurture those leads, retain those customers, and continue growing your consumer base moving forward.
2. Create a plan.
Now that you know where your growth is coming from, you’ll want to create a strategy for growth. It’s a simple step, but so many business owners get bogged down in the day-to-day tasks that they never take the time to create a serious plan for the future. The only way to measure your business’s success and development is through established goals, objectives, and milestones.
If you don’t plan to win, you plan to fail.
So what should your plan look like?
Remember those plans you made at the beginning of your business? Revisit them and start fresh, now that you know more and do more. This includes a mission statement, business plan, cost-benefit analysis, management strategy, resource list, and more. You’ll also want to anticipate potential needs, problems, staff, technology, and roadblocks.
Learn how to write a business plan with SBA here. This works for new businesses, changing businesses, or growing businesses.
3. Remember your mission.
In the midst of change, don’t forget who you are. Be careful not to lose sight of your business’s core values while you’re handling rapid growth.
Your brand mission is what attracts and retains your customers. If you start to forget your mission, you could start to lose your most loyal customers. You’ll also gain a reputation for not being authentic, and authenticity is critical in today’s marketing.
For example, you’re an eco-friendly company. Part of your founding mission is to reduce the energy expenditure used to create coffee. As your business is growing, you need to make more coffee cups and at a lower cost. So you find a new supplier who can raise your margins by reducing the cost of your coffee cups. But this supplier is wasting materials and has a high energy expenditure—almost double what the typical coffee cup takes.
Your customers—who purchased your coffee and cups because you had the mission of reduced energy expenditure— are upset. They stop purchasing from you because you no longer are staying true to your brand mission. You start to lose clients fast, and your growth instantly drops off.
You’re scaling strategy needs to align with your brand mission if you want long-term success.
4. Watch the financials.
Rapid growth means you’re making a lot of money—but you’re also spending a lot of money. You’re also spending money in new places. It’s easy to lose track of all of those dollars. Growth means you need a more expansive financial tracking and analysis system.
A lot of small businesses don’t properly watch their finances while they’re growing because they assume growth is lasting. Suddenly, these businesses are out of money—and they don’t know where it went.
So make sure you’re watching where every dollar is going. We recommend hiring an accountant in-house or outsourced to make this process easier.
5. Increase your resources.
Growth means you’re going to have more strain on your business. The best way to handle this strain is with increased resources and personnel. You may need to hire additional staffers to keep up with projected demand. If you aren’t sure about your growth yet, you can hire temporary workers at a lower cost to fill the need before committing to more employees.
You may also want to consider outsourcing certain processes and operations. Learn more about outsourcing here.
If you don’t have the salary for new staff, offer additional resources to your existing staff. This might include overtime pay or supplemental bonuses that keep your employees happy, motivated, and working hard in this transitional period.
You’ll also want to give them access to new resources to streamline their jobs. For example, you could have one person (in-house or outsourced) finding leads so your sales team can focus on making calls.
You want to provide your staff with appropriate resources so they can handle the growth effectively.
6. Focus on change management.
Growth always means change is brewing. Change can be frightening and stressful for staff just as much as it is for leaders. You want to keep your staff included and informed about what’s going on.
So you’ll want to create a system of communication to help manage this change. Maybe you have monthly meetings or an email chain to discuss what’s going on. All employees should know how to receive updates about the growth of the business.
You also want a way for employees to contact you if they have concerns or ideas. They’re on the frontline of your business, so they likely have ideas about how to handle changes or improve the growth from another perspective. Open up the floor to get a variety of perspectives as you move through this transitional period.
The same is also true of your partners. Even if you’re a sole-preneur, you have partners and stakeholders—from suppliers to charitable partners—that care about the changes in your business. Create a means of communication so all players know what’s going on and what your strategy is moving forward.
An open line of communication is the best way to manage change and enhance your growth.
7. Find a mentor.
The greatest leaders have mentors. The best businesses learn from one another. As you’re going through this period of change, don’t be afraid to seek help. Seek out a single mentor who’s been through similar growth or a community of similar entrepreneurs like you. This can provide you with tips and advice, but it can also be a great support system as you’re going through the stress of growing pains.
The team at Seller’s Choice has been through this before. We are e-commerce sellers ourselves, so we know what it’s like to grow and fluctuate in your business. We’d love to be your partner and give you everything we know as you move through this transitional period. Contact us here to start the discussion.
Rapid growth is exciting, but it can also be dangerous. You want to ensure you’re flexible while staying true to your mission. Changes are happening, and you want to get ahead of them with a strong growth strategy.
Don’t fear change. You’re growing because you are a solid leader with a strong team. Pat yourself on the back for your growth, and then use that pat to push yourself forward for continued progression.