Growing Pains (and Gains)
From 10 to 50 Employees. The what, the why and the how of growing your company and handling the change.
“Growing pains”, originally a medical term, describes the aches a body must deal with going through a growth spurt, usually during puberty. It is a natural process that everyone has experienced, and it passes.
Interestingly, growing pains are not an exclusively human experience.
When a company grows, this is considered a sign of success. But following the celebrations, there are a lot of challenges too.
When you start out with three, five, maybe even ten people, you can decide how you would like to best conduct meetings, how you set your goals and how you track them. Whether you have annual appraisals and regular feedback loops is up to you; they are a “nice-to-have”.
As soon as you grow beyond ten employees, those times are over. They have to be over if you want to see your business grow successfully, sustainably, and smoothly.
The remedy for an entrepreneur’s growing pains are called “standardized processes”. They are your “what”; what is needed. Without these processes, your company lacks efficiency and effectiveness. In our case, this became painfully obvious last year.
We had to break old habits and jointly develop and embrace a new way of working together. The more people joined, the more it became evident that we had to develop a new identity for our organization, together, with everybody’s voice heard. This re-establishment was necessary to professionalize our work and to pave the road for sustainable growth.
The key to getting to that point is communication.
Change takes time and hard work. Is this process difficult? Hell, yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely. Reworking processes, setting new structures and re-establishing one’s company identity are amongst the most difficult things a growing company will face. But they are urgently needed to improve the workflow, make everyone more efficient and enable them to do their best work, and take pride in it. It is gratifying to see the maintenance and building up of a supportive and co-creational workforce.
It is the management’s task to clearly explain the “why” in this growing process. This we do by stressing the benefits this has on everyone’s work.
Everyone has to pull together if the change is to succeed. When both the management and employees buy into the new standards, we can play out our organization’s strengths, shift resources, and provide the training and recovery time where it is needed.
How do we get there? By requesting our people to speak up. By empowering them to take ownership in the process. By introducing new intermediate management levels and clarifying roles and mandates for everyone.
Also , we mutually need to discipline ourselves, regardless of tenure or title. While this seems awkward and uneasy in the beginning, it is probably the most important duty of everyone. In the long term, it will make everyone’s life easier, by ensuring a high level of transparency and accountability.
Finally, there must be consequences for those impeding the necessary changes. Just like Ken Kesey wrote: “You are either on or off the bus.” Change is an inclusive process, and it will only ever be as successful as your team is supportive of it.