Business Management / Human Resources

8 common small business growing pains

Laura Dolan

Jan 29, 2020 · 9 min read

Toolkit for download in this article

small business growing pains

For an entrepreneur, watching your business come together and grow is one of the best accomplishments. People are buying your product and your profits are up, so now you’re thinking, maybe it’s time to expand the company.

However, that’s not an easy endeavor by any means. With every successful company, there’s a backstory that divulges the pain, sacrifices, struggle, and hard work that it took to accumulate more employees and expand to multiple locations.

Here are eight common business growing pains that most start-ups experience and how they can overcome:

Hiring the right people

Once the decision is made to expand your business, you want to hire the right people to help you do that successfully. The optimum word in that sentence is “right.”

During the interview process, it’s important to vet your candidates to the point where they not only understand the mission of your business, but that they will embrace and sustain it, and that they have the skills it will take to keep the company afloat and act in its best interest.

For a company that’s experiencing rapid growth, sometimes the hiring process needs to be accelerated, which doesn’t leave you a lot of time to interview the sufficient amount of applicants.

To avoid a high turnover rate that would be very costly to your business, make sure you’re specific in your job descriptions as to what you’re looking for so that new hires know what to expect, and you’ll more likely attract the right people that will make the interview process go much more smoothly.

Offering employee benefits

An attractive aspect about working for a good company is the benefits: health insurance including dental and vision coverage, PTO, 401K, sick leave, maternity/paternity leave, etc.

As a responsible company owner, you want to have those benefits in place before you start hiring people. You need to give applicants an incentive other than just having the privilege to work for your organization, even though that might be a perk in itself.

Devoting the time it takes to research and allocate funds toward benefits can be overwhelming and it’s not really the business owner’s place. It will take time away from more important things, like making sure the company stays alive in order for these benefits to dodge a null and void status.

Once it becomes apparent that the company is up and running and primed for consistent growth, the first place to start expanding would be your HR team. Hire administrators who can help you with your benefits research and know the laws with which you need to comply.

When you have your competitive benefits package in place, then it’s time to seek candidates who are willing to work hard in exchange for the amazing perks that you can offer.

Maintaining company culture

Preserving a fun and healthy company culture that embraces a family-like bond is easy when you’re starting out with 10 to 20 employees.

However, that becomes more difficult to nourish as you grow. Once you’ve surpassed a certain number of employees, your culture begins to change. There are too many employees to garner close relationships with so the feel of the company starts to become impersonal, giving employees the perception that they’re just cogs in a machine working for a faceless leader.

As a business owner of a growing organization, it does become more difficult to devote time to an accumulating roster of employees. Coming up with a simple solution to gauge who the employees are and ensure they have what they need to feel successful can be done in a few ways.

One example is to schedule luncheons once per month with a handful of different staff members attending each one. Set aside an hour with four to five people; let them express themselves, let them ask you questions, you can also ask them questions. Make the mood as candid as you want.

Just keep the lines of communication open. If your employees know they can come to you with issues or know who they can turn to if something comes up will make them feel more secure and appreciated, motivating them to work harder for a boss who actually cares.

Communication issues or lack thereof

Speaking of communication, as your team grows, it becomes that much more important to keep your entire company in the loop when you’re making announcements about big changes to the organization, the personnel, benefits, etc.

Communication among a large amount of people in a business can quickly turn into a game of Telephone. Information gets misinterpreted, starting rumors, which can suck the life out of the once healthy company culture you worked so hard to establish.

To avoid this kind of toxicity and stay one step ahead of the inevitable gossip that can saturate an organization, implement a reliable communication system that’s mandatory for everyone to use. One great program is Slack, which stands for Searchable Log of All Communication & Knowledge. It’s an easily accessible and searchable record of your team’s communication. You can create as many chat channels as you’d like to organize and divide the departments with their respective team members. This will help compartmentalize the different teams, streamlining their interactions so the system doesn’t get out of hand.

Communication isn’t just about interacting, it’s also about keeping your work organized. Implementing a cloud system such as Google Drive will enable employees to store all of their projects that can be easily shared with others who can have editing and collaboration privileges. Keeping everything in one place will also put a moratorium on searching for lost documents and files that would impede a tight production schedule.

Lack of job clarity and training

One of the most frustrating things for new hires is ambiguity and lack of training. Adhering to a job description is very important so new employees don’t get stuck with jobs they weren’t hired to do or jobs they don’t know how to do, thus setting them up for failure.

This situation would quickly discourage any new hire, coercing them to commence a new job search fewer than 90 days in.

As a business owner, it’s difficult to be privy to these types of issues. You just assume that other team members are ensuring the new hires are getting situated sans confusion or lack of proper training.

It’s common for new employees to take on extra roles or pick up the slack when someone is out sick. If that’s the case at your company while you’re still working out the kinks in your expansion, be upfront during their interview or state it in their job descriptions so they’re not blindsided. As long as the new hire understands the situation is just temporary and you uphold your end of the agreement that it is, the transition should go smoothly once new people come aboard.

As a proper manager, it’s also a good idea to regularly check in with new hires to ensure they have the clarity they need to do their jobs well and address any concerns or confusion they have as they come up instead of letting them build, fueling bad morale.

No clear goals

Adding a person to the team means so much more than having someone merely do a job that you as the business owner don’t want to do or don’t have time to do. It’s important that each employee feels they’re part of the bigger picture, contributing to something significant.

Displaying the company’s goals or mission statement in as many places as possible helps drive the point home and reminds employees why they’re showing up every day.

Get them excited! If the company meets a sales goal, celebrate by sending a company-wide email sharing the details and what the next milestone is.

Stating the company’s mission in common places such as email signatures or printing it on the wall of the lobby will create a connection among the entire organization.

Goals are also a helpful tool in sustaining accountability and making sure each employee’s performance can be measured by said goals. Once a target is met, make sure there’s a reward system in place: a bonus, gift cards, free lunch, happy hour, a team bowling night. Having incentives in place is always a good way to ensure everyone in the company is on the same page and stays motivated.

Overworking

It’s healthy to invest time and energy to sustain your company’s growth and reach the next level, but not at the risk of burnout. Work-life balance is becoming a very popular sentiment among corporations that believe resting is just as important as being productive.

You need to replenish yourself, otherwise overworking and expending energy that’s causing you to make mistakes is counterproductive. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to aim higher, it’s a great attitude to have, but you have to think about the example you’re setting for your staff. If they come in on a Monday morning and see emails from you that are timestamped 3:30 a.m., they’re going to think this is what you’re expecting of them as well.

Employees want to impress you, but if this is the precedent you’re setting by constantly working overtime, they’re going to feel compelled to do the same to avoid feeling inadequate by not doing more.

Be the kind of business owner who runs a company that respects health, wellness and boundaries. It’ll raise morale and increase productivity more consistently than making everyone feel they have to work around the clock.

Staying competitive

Sustaining that competitive edge gets more difficult as the company grows due to more processes being put in place, therefore slowing production.

Instill your team with a growth mindset, but remind them that troubleshooting and the occasional failure is OK, as long as they have the knowledge and tools needed to recover and forge ahead by learning from mistakes.

This will encourage an innovative culture and maintain the growth the company needs to overcome small business growing pains and evolve into a healthy, thriving organization.


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