Is Your Company Experiencing Growing Pains? Here's How to Thrive Through Them Both leaders and employees play a critical role in easing the pains that come with fast growth. Here are a few ways to adapt amid your company's changing environment.

By Cheri Beranek

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

In life and business, growing pains hurt, but they also come with many opportunities for advancement. Conflicts and pains are the results of imperfection, but imperfection is a good thing as long as it's by design, not ignorance. Intentional imperfection means you're consciously challenging yourself to attempt new things, changing and adapting in response and growing as a person.

Just as our acceptance of change and willingness to overcome is a necessary part of living a successful life, this must be the same mentality we hold when building a successful business. Growth can bring unmitigated risk upon an unprepared company that can quickly become an unmitigated disaster. This is not to say dealing with planned imperfections will be smooth sailing, but they are possible to overcome with the right mindset. With everyone aligned around the reasons for growth and what it should accomplish, you manage the risk and the pains that come with it so the company can emerge stronger.

Related: Growing Pains: How to Turn Hard Times Into Periods of Immense Personal Growth

What to expect when you're growing

People read books about expecting a baby to know what parts of growth are normal, when to be concerned and how to better handle those stages. In business, we should be just as prepared. A baby who first tries to walk inevitably falls down, but if we prevented them from ever making that attempt, they would miss out on many opportunities for development as they grew. Just as we have to let babies learn to fall so they can walk, we have to be willing to let our business fall and go through the pain of falling if we ever hope for it to grow. A company's leaders and employees should be the people that surround and support the business as it takes its first steps through these pains so if it falls, it's just a little bump to learn from and not a more serious bruise.

Growth is not a perfectly linear process, so keep realistic expectations. When companies start to grow, leaders can often expect their employees to match that growth with a faster rate of productivity, but we need to remember that it sometimes takes one step back to get two steps ahead. Right now, we're adding a significant number of new employees, which is draining our resources until we can bring those people up to speed. Investments in new equipment will come with necessary training on how to use them. New departments need time for integration. Whenever you add elements to grow your company, remember to plan for a period of negative growth to adjust to them.

Communication is key. As a company grows in size, existing employees might see new team members taking away from the time and attention they need to do their work effectively. Leaders should encourage open communication through a growing company so employees feel confident asking for help from the right people when they need it. At our company, we schedule day-to-day communication opportunities, like every Wednesday when we go through our snapshots and talk about the results with each employee. If you want to grow your company, make sure you install mechanisms that ensure transparent communication continues to scale.

Related: How to Manage Resistance to Change Within an Agile Organization

Tips for leaders

When a company grows, leaders are responsible for making change happen, but we need to collaborate with our employees to embrace a mindset that fosters change. Help your employees reframe how they see the company's growing pains by being transparent about your vision and the reason for attempting a growth initiative. Establish a broad understanding of what you're looking to accomplish for the company so everyone can reframe current problems through the vision of achieving those goals.

When people take the lead in a company's growth, it can be easy to start questioning if they really have the skills to do it, and imposter syndrome is common during any leader's growing pains. Some self-doubt is understandable when taking on any initiative, but most of the time, this doubt is only because we haven't done something before, not because we lack the skills to try. Dispel this doubt by practicing confidence. Remind yourself of your skills and past accomplishments, and remember that anyone who ever attempted anything great probably felt like an imposter at some point.

Related: 10 Steps to Achieve a Growth Mindset in Business

Tips for employees

While employees may not be able to do anything about a company's growing pains, they can help the company by being more cognizant of them. Remember that leaders wouldn't ask you to go through a growth opportunity if they didn't believe you could do it. Take on the mindset that overcoming struggles is critical for achieving the company's success, and be a part of that effort by pushing through them. Growth may require you to speak up and ask for help in ways you never needed before. At the same time, with the way growth can put a strain on company resources, consider the difference between truly needing help to overcome change and the inevitable discomfort of changing.

One of the biggest growing pains we're facing, both at our company and in our industry, is lead times. Our core deliverable to our customers had always been short lead times of eight to 10 days, but our new norm is more like eight to 10 weeks. Of course, we're addressing it with added capacity and capital equipment, but we're also asking employees to be more cognizant of the situation and the problems they encounter. Rather than making excuses, we encourage them to reframe their own perspectives about what we gain as a company through the pains of our growth. Then employees can reframe our value proposition to customers in a way they still respect. Instead of becoming negative about a situation, we can change our perspectives on the opportunity that comes from working through it.

In business, there's no such thing as a static environment. You're either growing or regressing, so accept and embrace the inevitability of change. Unless you're experiencing the pains that come with growth, you're not growing, and something's wrong. Even in the midst of our growing pains, my company isn't losing business because we're always looking to better ourselves and stay in front of the competition. Keep pushing and stay the course. While growing pains may not be comfortable, getting through them drives a company to become more competitive and a bigger success.
Cheri Beranek

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

CEO of Clearfield

Cheri Beranek is the CEO of Clearfield and a 2021 Minnesota Business Hall of Fame inductee. Under her leadership, Clearfield has grown from a concept to a market cap of more than $500 million, providing optical-fiber management and connectivity solutions across North America.

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