Spring is around the corner. It’s the time of year associated with birth, growth, and flourishing with vitality. As Owl says in the Disney classic ‘Bambi’, spring is when we all get ‘twitterpated’ which has nothing to do with modern Twitter and everything to do with expansion in a familial way! In business, this can translate to growing pains of a different kind.
Often we hear entrepreneurs referring to their business as their baby. And it’s not a silly analogy at all. The growing pains we experience with our businesses are not at all unlike the growing pains that accompany raising children.
So how do they relate and what are some of the connections that can be made in each stage? What things can we do to minimise the pains associated with each developmental milestone? Is running a startup business really like watching a child grow up? And how does that translate to the terrible two’s and stroppy, sullen teenagers who are always embarrassed by their parents?
Let’s take a look and compare.
The Aha! Moment
When a budding entrepreneur has a brilliant idea that they can no longer sit on it’s time to make those ideas and dreams come to fruition. That requires action and planning.
Just like future parents usually plan to have a child and take the necessary steps to ensure they are in the best health or use tools that help increase the likelihood of conception, wannabe business owners should ensure they have the right environment and mind frame when they plan to launch. The business idea without action is just gestating long term, never realised. It’s at this stage when you need to give birth to your great idea and make it a real, live entity.
It’s no coincidence that this part of any startup involves plenty of sleepless nights! Regardless of how small you start out with your venture ensure you measure vital criteria month to month. Healthy monitoring practices are the way forward and will identify issues that may need intervention, and the sooner the better.
You wouldn’t dream of having a baby and not following up with regular checkups!
Likewise, you don’t expect a newborn to bypass the next two stages and become a functioning teenager before it’s time. Running before you can walk is one of the biggest pitfalls of new startups. Premature scaling will see you with mud on your face.
Rushing through these phases risk your business unnecessarily and is at your peril.
Toddling into the ‘Terrible Twos’
It may be a cliché to say that when a child reaches the ripe old age of two they become unholy terrors. Mobile and far-reaching in their efforts to thwart some hope of sanity and calm, toddlers are the epitome of a time when things get really tough in the child-raising game.
When a business starts out almost everything is dependent on you, and only you. Those growing pains can be wholly exhausting and you may feel like every spare moment of your time is devoted to getting this business baby off the ground and more autonomous. For now, it’s very needy and it can be hard to allocate any ‘me time’.
It isn’t all doom and gloom. Those first steps and achievements are glorious! As your growth starts to scale monitoring KPIs become ever more essential to avoid those hazards around every corner. Your business needs to hold your hand until it’s steadier and that bit more self-reliant.
The Wonder Years
Your business can speak for itself! It develops its own personality and has creativity and embraces invention. Without being damped down by big corporate thinking it has imagination and a fearlessness unlike later in life.
You are likely to have some employees at this stage and it’s important to foster values and a culture that aligns with yours from the outset. Your systems and processes need to function and operate the way you want them to for maximum impact. Is everyone on board with these?
Just because your business seems to be gaining independence doesn’t mean you can afford to stop learning yourself. Continue to invest in your own learning and ensure your team do too.
Smells Like Teen Spirit
By the time your business hits those pre-teen years and full-on adolescence it has become even more independent, some might even say opinionated!
Joking aside, your business at this stage should be progressing to the point that you are no longer responsible for the day-to-day running of it. You should be comfortable that it is in capable hands when on holiday or days away for whatever reason.
While your business barrels along towards a state where you can provide vision and guidance and it becomes truly autonomous you still need to keep an eye on things. Exit strategies, operational workflows in place, and solid supervision are essential to allow you to reach full business maturity.
Your business needs to reach the stage where you become more of a leadership spearhead, the visionary, able to enjoy the benefits of all of your hard work and labour and possibly embark on your next entrepreneurial venture.
Teenagers are notoriously tricky territory though, so things can seem innocuous and then go horribly wrong. Keeping tabs at this point is important so that it doesn’t tank (or run away?) when things get difficult. Employees need to feel supported, provide feedback, and that development and progression are possible. An iron fist in this department using ‘my way or the highway’ will predictably end in tears.
The Empty Nest
When your business has wings and has flown the nest you, as a business owner, have achieved your goal.
When a business has scaled and is sustainable on its own with the right talent in place you can enjoy the fruits of your labour to the fullest.
In the grand scheme of things, this doesn’t mean you are actually at the retirement phase in your life, but for your business, it means exit strategy. Letting go of your business and relinquishing the company to hopefully grow without you at the helm.
Since a strong exit strategy should always be a part of your future planning in the business well before you get to this stage, it’s important to recognise this planning as a priority.
Young adults who start to put money into a pension pot as soon as they can reap the rewards when compared to others who only start to wonder about future funding after retirement in their late 40s!
The Argument for Growing Pains
There are a lot of comparisons that can be made for the case that your business is like raising a child. Those growing pains from birth, infancy, puberty, and to adult each stage is a necessary one.
As a business owner (or indeed parent) your ability to maximise the growth and development at each phase will positively impact your business to be the best it can be and reduce the likelihood of failure.
Each step is valid and needed so don’t be in a rush to push past these critical and vital periods in your progression.
Pushy parenting usually backfires and it’s excellent food for thought.