5 common small business growing pains, and how to beat them

26th August 2021

growing pains

Growing a business is exhilarating, exhausting, and everything in between. It’s also filled with growing pains as you expand, hire more staff, and ramp up operations. Very few entrepreneurs are open about the fact that their trajectory from a one person operation to a team of twenty was riddled with false starts, costly blunders, and more than a few sleepless nights.  

Every single entrepreneur, from Elon and Steve to you (yes really!), has experienced bumps in the road on their journey to success.

The next time you’re feeling like everyone else is killing it and you’re the only person who cannot get a handle on X, Y, or Z, remember every single entrepreneur will encounter the following growing pains at some point in their career.

1. An inability to focus on one thing at a time

Starting and running a business is frenetic. Running from one proverbial fire to the next may be the nature of the job (or all ninety seven of them), but it’s unsustainable. Importantly, it also means that when it’s time to focus on the really important stuff – like brainstorming how to increase your cash flow or working out your pricing strategy – you have a hard time quieting the noise and focusing on the task at hand. All hope is not lost; there are several tactics you can use to improve your ability to focus. 

Practicing mindfulness can assist you in zoning in, as can the concept of “Eating the frog” – a slightly gross and inhumane term for getting the hardest, trickiest, do I really have to tasks out of the way first. Procrastinating by doing mundane, easy tasks – like checking email or replying to messages on social media – can end up taking as much time as you like if you’re trying to avoid doing something else.

2. Trying to do everything yourself

If your business is still in its infancy, chances are, you’re solely responsible for almost every major (and minor) day-to-day decision and task. And this may work for you. Until it doesn’t. While your business may be expanding (hurray!), your capacity remains the same. If you can’t afford to hire permanent staff just yet, look at taking an intern on board – often, a small stipend and the chance to learn the ropes are enough of a drawcard for graduates or students. Another option that can give you a bit of space to breathe is to hire a freelancer to tackle the tasks that you’re not well-versed in, like social media management or copywriting. And, if you have a small bit of cash you can throw at the problem, consider hiring a virtual assistant to tackle the yawn-worthy but necessary admin that comes with running a business.

3. Neglecting your marketing campaigns

You’re so busy keeping everything afloat that anything that’s less than absolutely imperative falls by the wayside. I get it – it’s the nature of the hustle. And the things that get put on the back burner and conveniently forgotten about are, more often than not, the things that require a little bit more effort and a degree of trial and error – which is pretty much what marketing your business entails. The ramifications of not giving your marketing the attention it deserves aren’t always immediately apparent – until they become glaringly so.  In fact, your business may well be ticking along without any sort of formal marketing campaign. Unfortunately, this momentum isn’t guaranteed, and even if you operate in a niche industry with customers who are loyal to a fault – you’ll need some sort of marketing. If setting up social pages and thinking up brilliant copy isn’t your forte, it’s all good – there are plenty of people who’re marketing wunderkinds. Try The Resource on Facebook, or, if you’re feeling particularly plucky – poke around social, see what stands out, and then ask (nicely, of course), for the details of their marketing magician.

4. Finding the right people for the job

There’s a science to hiring the right people – but perfecting it takes practice. Making use of a recruitment agency or taking the time to conduct extensive, in-depth interviews often aren’t options if you’re working with a shoestring budget and little extra time. The thing is, hiring the wrong person for the job isn’t only a waste of time (yours and theirs) – it can be costly too. One way to up your chances of finding the perfect person for the job is by being as specific as possible in your job description. Include the personality traits you’re looking for, as well as what a typical day on the job will entail. Before you commit and take someone on as a formal employee, work in a trial period that gives both parties the ability to pull out should they wish. 

5. Avoiding broken telephone syndrome

As your business grows, and your roster of staff alongside it, efficiently communicating important information automatically becomes a lot more difficult. Without a singular, trusted source of information, the adverse effects of broken telephone can render untold havoc on day- to-day business. Weekly casual debriefs over a beer in the back office may have cut it when you had one or two employees, but once you have several staff members, you’ll need to change tack. Find a centralised, trusted communication system that is easy for everyone to use. Set up a WhatsApp group (I know, but this is a super easy and free way of sending out urgent comms).  Slack is a great option for daily communication needs, and Google Drive is a (free) and secure means of storing all documentation and media. That said, nothing beats in-person communication, so if you can, hold a bi-weekly or monthly “family meeting” where all employees can gather in a shared space – online or off.

Growing a business is fraught with hiccups and hurdles. It’s also one of the most rewarding endeavours you’ll ever embark on. We’d love to know your take on the above – and any advice you have for entrepreneurs struggling with growing pains of their own.