Almost every small business or startup reaches a point where growth requires scalability. But scaling a business comes with its challenges—all those processes fine-tuned for a team of five start showing cracks when the team grows to 100 people.
A company growing too fast can lose sight of what mattered to them in the beginning. Growing pains are common in any business, but they are easily managed... if tackled early on. Here’s what you should expect as your business scales, and how you can preemptively solve common growing pains.
Common growing pains in business (and how to fix them!)
- Confused hierarchies
- Lack of structure
- Misaligned management
- Resistance to change
- Unclear values
- Lack of camaraderie
The smaller your business, the easier it is to run on a flat hierarchy. While the term may have a negative connotation, having a formalized hierarchy helps organize your business. A small business may give employees autonomy to make their own decisions for the company, but as you scale, what happens when 1,000 employees start making independent decisions? And what do you do when those 1,000 employees all come to you with questions or requests?
- Create a clear and detailed organizational chart
- Establish a roadmap for career advancement
- Use process automation to cut down on non-essential requests
Lack of structure
Sure, you have a hierarchy in place, but does everyone understand it? By not firming up your company structure, you’re opening pathways for misunderstandings in your company. Every team member must have a clear understanding of the reporting structure, their role, and their expectations. When everybody knows what they must do and who to talk to, processes are smoother and employees feel less overwhelmed.
- Be clear in job descriptions
- Be transparent about your hierarchy
- Establish key objectives and track progress
- Announce objectives company-wide
As your management team grows, you won’t be able to oversee all the work or manage every employee. Plus, having more managers on staff increases the risk of misaligned management (and micromanaging). Not every manager works the same way and when management styles clash, business suffers. While it’s important to allow everyone to have their own management style, you want to make sure these styles fit together—and don’t contradict each other.
- Standardize management processes for top-level work
- Organize monthly alignment trainings for management
- Pulse surveys for employee feedback
Resistance to change
We get it: change is hard. Employees who have been with you since day one can feel uprooted when their regular day-to-day gets disrupted as the business scales. If you don’t approach change the right way, you could see high turnover from your most loyal team members.
- Be upfront about upcoming organizational changes
- Allow and encourage employee feedback and suggestions before change is implemented
- Run regular (monthly, quarterly… not just yearly) anonymous employee reviews to identify issues you can help resolve
When other people onboard your new employees, it’s important to standardize their experience. While management styles differ, each new team member should experience the same introduction to the company—and stay aligned on mission and expectations as they grow. If your employees don’t know your company values, they don’t understand the work they’re doing… and can completely change your business’ trajectory.
- Display your company’s mission statement and values in visible, high-traffic areas
- Reward team members when they exemplify company values
- Reiterate company values in both internal and external communications
Lack of camaraderie
It’s not just a buzzword—company culture is a critical consideration for 46% of job seekers, per a Jobvite survey. Your small team may feel like a family, but it’s hard to manage that as more employees join that family. It’s crucial to build a company culture where everyone feels welcome, included, and heard. If you aren’t actively building that culture, you’re passively damaging it.
- Team outings
- Company-wide brainstorms
- Affinity groups
- Skills-based training
- Encouraged cross-team collaboration
It’s easy to get caught up in your business’ growth as you manage bigger projects and more responsibilities. But it's important to recognize that your employees are what make it all possible. Your people should be as much of a priority for you as the work they do day in and day out. Managing these growing pains will let your company succeed… and your employees too.