Seven common growing pains experienced by startups, and how to avoid them.
On the day you launch your startup, it's unlikely you'll have already reached the potential that spurred you into business ownership in the first place.
I’m sorry to say that, much as many budding entrepreneurs believe they're going to make their mark in their industry or niche overnight, the reality is it often takes a lot longer and a lot of 'plan Bs' to get where you ultimately know you want to be.
Growth in most businesses happens gradually. With every passing day in operation, relationships are built, lessons are learnt and, when you look back, you can see a gentle incline in growth without even noticing that it happened.
Once a startup is more established, however, that's when the next stage of growth becomes more deliberate. Launching a new and improved product and expanding operations will take your startup to the next level and you one step closer to making your entrepreneurial dreams a reality.
But while growth has the potential to bring high reward, the process can also cause significant pain.
Not just to the owner of the startup, but to staff, suppliers, and anyone else involved in the journey of taking a startup from zero to hero.
Fortunately, you're not the first person who has plans to take their company to the next level. Many have walked the pathway of growth success before you, and, as such, have identified some common pitfalls associated with expansion. Pitfalls that, with a little bit of awareness and careful planning, can easily be avoided to make sure your growth stage runs smoothly.
Stabilise your growth strategy and make your expansion plain-sailing by avoiding falling into these seven common traps.
1. You become reactive rather than strategic.
As you grow, it's inevitable that you'll become busier and will have an array of tasks to deal with that you hadn't planned for. Curveballs will be thrown at you from all angles, and there’s an increased risk that you'll spend your time reacting to unplanned circumstances rather than working through a methodical strategy as you might be used to.
Solution: Keep clear lines of communication open between yourself and everyone else around you. Nobody expects you to have all the answers, but if you pretend you've got everything under control when people can see that you don't, you risk your reputation and the faith that your staff have in you. When you're navigating uncharted territory, it can be difficult to plan for the unexpected, so always be transparent. Seek advice from those who have followed the same path as you and be open to learning from their experience.
If you find yourself reacting to something more than once, make sure you document new procedures, so you don't get caught by the same problem twice.
2. Risks become greater.
When you're taking a business through a growth phase, the potential rewards increase, but so does the amount you stand to lose. Due to higher investments required, less certainty about the outcomes of your decisions, and the fact you're likely to be walking a path that you've never walked before, you stand to lose a lot more than when you took those first tentative steps into startup ownership.
Solution: Remain focussed on your end goal. The magnitude of the potential risks involved can often deter you from making those bold decisions, so you need to stay completely steadfast on reaching your end goal.
Make sure your online marketing is reaching your target audience effectively and that you are optimising your sales funnel to its full potential. Reaching out to a professional digital agency like Media Shark can be the difference between online success and failure.
While your product may be new and ground-breaking, principal rules of business remain the same. If you do feel out of your comfort zone, seek business advice available from bodies such as the Business Studio at State Library of Queensland who can connect you with Entrepreneurs in Residence and online resources to avoid increasing risks unnecessarily.
3. Increase in workload but not in revenue.
It's inevitable that as you grow, you're going to have more work to do before you're rewarded with the extra income to compensate. This might be OK for you, the startup owner who's living out their passion, but perhaps not for your staff who are working harder with no visible results.
SOLUTION: Increase in workload is inevitable during a growth stage but without an increase in income it might not be the best business decision to increase staff salaries. Keep staff motivated through the busy period by offering short-term rewards and by making long-term plans which will show them they're appreciated. Your new product launch event, the staff Christmas party, or a team-building event will all show your employees that you're committed to them and you have belief in the great results that you can achieve together.
4. Roles and responsibilities become blurred.
As new tasks crop up, it can be difficult for staff to know where their fundamental responsibilities begin and end. There will be a certain amount of ‘all-hands-on-deck' which can put undue pressure on an already busy team.
SOLUTION: Make a point of allocating ongoing tasks as soon as it looks like they're going to become regular. If you assume that something is going to get done without officially assigning it, you risk it not being done at all. Communicate with your staff to let them know your expectations of them during this busy time but continue to reward and acknowledge their efforts. Remember, you can't do what you're doing without them, and your existing, trained, team are one of your most valuable assets.
5. Staff become de-motivated.
When staff are under pressure, and they can't see the reward of their extra efforts, they are likely to become de-motivated and unenthusiastic leading to a breakdown in productivity.
SOLUTION: You need to make an individual effort with every member of your team. Schedule regular team and individual meetings so you can acknowledge the contribution that everyone is playing towards helping you reach your goals. Send daily or weekly emails communicating key developments and milestones and make your team aware of everything that's going on behind the scenes. They'll appreciate knowing their extra efforts are noticed which will keep their motivation up.
6. Temporary managers cause unrest.
When things get busy, it's a natural progression for staff who are experienced in their position to step into a managerial position which they might not be qualified for which can lead to unrest within the team.
SOLUTION: Make sure that any unofficial or temporary promotions are always supported by yourself so that people don't just take it upon themselves to assume a managerial role. If you do promote internally to a team leadership or supervisory role, always provide adequate management training, either internally or externally to maintain the respect of other staff members. If other employees feel bitter that you've promoted someone above them, this could lead to further lack of motivation so make sure the process is dealt with professionally and justly.
7. Overwhelm leads to procrastination.
When you're just about to climb the next mountain, it can be easy to get overwhelmed and avoid tasks altogether. If not managed carefully, too much procrastination can put you behind schedule and severely impact your timelines.
SOLUTION: Whether you currently work from an office or home, it's easy to get side-tracked and distracted when there's so much going on. Allocate yourself a working space away from the distractions and go there regularly. Set yourself milestones to achieve in your space so you work smarter and harder.
The State Library of Queensland provides a Business Studio at a central location in Queensland which gives you access to all the facilities you need to complete your office tasks. You will have access to shared workstations for up to four people, full WIFI and office equipment which will help you get some clarity around your priorities in a space where you can focus.
You can hold meetings here and, as a member you can also take advantage of the business service resources available to help accelerate your growth faster and more effectively.
While it's an exciting time for your startup, transitioning through a growth phase can be just as challenging as launching your company. Follow these simple tips to avoid some common pitfalls, and visit the SLQ Business Studio Online Hub for extra resource on running your business.