Growing pains? How to handle the stress of rapid business growth

OPENSEED Digital Consultancy

Success – it’s what we all dream of when we open the doors of any business. We’re aiming for customer demand and a product or service that meets a need.

Those initial months or years of a new business are often filled with boundless energy at the prospect of a new venture. The long hours seem effortless and the commitment to fulfil every customer’s desire is unwavering as you work hard to build clientele.

But what about when you hit that first level of success, when your business is clearly viable and growing but the efforts of a sole entrepreneur or small team are no longer enough? Where do you go from here?

Here’s a quick guide to surviving the growing pains that come with business success.

The five stages of business growth

In 1983 Harvard Business Review released a seminal report, noting there were five stages of growth involved in the development of any business.

First there were the fledgling days of existence, then the relief of survival and at stage three a business reached success.

Defined as the point where the owner is enjoying a solid return, with healthy profits year-in, year-out, success sees a business boast a comfortable client base and a clear understanding of their position in the market.

By this point the business will likely have significant staff resources including some management personnel in place along, with the systems and procedures to ensure a consistent business outcome, Harvard Business Review reflected.

But in between those stages of survival and success, what about the period where the business owner is on the cusp of becoming fully established? Where viability has been achieved, where a reputation has been attained and a client base built, but there are few systems in place, and running the organisation remains largely an individual or small team affair.

In many cases this transition between survival and success requires a leap of faith – where investment will be required in staffing and outsourcing, where management skills will be needed to formalise systems and procedures, and where planning will be key.

Meanwhile, this jump into the new unknown is arguably one of the most stressful transitions in business, where you look to relinquish some of the control, build a team and take your business to the next level.

And often it’s prompted by the fact a business owner is not running their business quite so much as it’s running them, while everything else takes a back seat.

Stress in small business

It’s little secret small business is a stressful endeavour. In the race to attain success, many business owners have poured their heart and soul into an enterprise. They’ve skimped on lifestyle and given time and energy in a bid to save on resources.

In addition to preforming the actual job of providing a service or product to clientele, many business operators are also pseudo accountants, staff negotiators, and the marketing mind behind publicity.

And according to workplace mental health advocates Heads Up, this can come at a high cost.

“Running your own business can be hugely rewarding, but for many small business owners having sole responsibility for the company’s success or failure can take its toll,” they reflect.

They further note small business owners can face an array of unique challenges, including:

  • regularly putting in long hours and working intensely to meet the demands of your business or to get your business off the ground
  • undertaking business related activities such as responding to business emails and calls after hours – blurring the boundaries between work and home
  • feeling isolated with not always having someone to share business worries with or with someone who can understand the demands of running a small business through experience
  • managing ongoing cash flow and financial issues, including chasing invoices and feeling concerned over where the next job is coming from
  • having multiple roles as well as managing the additional demands of administrative and government regulations – on top of everything else
  • feeling responsible to yourself and to others such as family and employees who are being involved in the business to ensure it is successful.

So how do you go from stress to success, and cater to the growing pains of business?

Handling growing pains


There’s a great old saying in business…if you fail to plan, you plan to fail, and perhaps at no point is this more pertinent than when a business is on the cusp of success. With the goal in sight, strategy is paramount.

Planning allows business to map out their immediate future including cashflow requirement, forecasts, KPIs and staffing necessities.

It enables them to adequately gauge where they are now and forecast what they need to do to take the next leap into the new sphere.

A solid business plan also allows operators to identify their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and sort the wood from the chaff in terms of what can feasibly be achieved as an individual or what needs be attained by bringing in assistance – whether that’s financial or in terms of staffing and delegation.


As a business teeters on the brink of success, one of the major issues many contend with is staffing. Is now the time to hire team members or is it time to consolidate? But the fact of the matter is, at this point in the business journey many operators benefit from delegation, and that can take many forms.

Whether it’s seeking out a bookkeeper to take off the pressure of accounting, outsourcing to a marketing team to manage the day to day of promotion, or bringing in an apprentice to handle the more mundane tasks, business operators have a wealth of tools at their disposal to ensure the day to day operations are met as the business continues to grow.

  • You can hand off key tasks to trusted staff members
  • You can bring in new staff to fill essential roles
  • You can outsource to external companies for roles such as book keeping or marketing
  • You can outsource on an ad hoc basis for jobs such as business planning
  • You can utilise external services to fill irregular roles such as a project via virtual assistants or freelancers

Regardless of how these roles are filled, they all work to take pressure off the business operator, ensuring they can work on and not always in their growing enterprise.

Use technology

The right technology is essential to business embarking on a growth spurt. In many cases it can allow a business to accomplish a maximum amount with minimal resources, while also setting a business up to launch to the next phase.

Whether it’s mobile Point of Sale, workflow systems, or market analytics, technology can be harnessed in so many ways.


As a business grows beyond a sole operator or small team, documentation becomes increasingly important. Now is the time to lock down the systems, processes, and procedures that clarify a business’ day-to-day operation.

Systems and procedures ensure every interaction that every customer has with a business is a consistent reflection of that business ethos. Which also makes now the time to clearly define the vision and mission that drive the image of that business.

Often business operators think of the vision and mission as obscure little catchphrases, but in truth they define where a business is now, and where they hope to be.

Not only do the vision and mission define a businesses’ mantra and ethos, they are also essential in conveying that message to the outside world. Put bluntly, a business vision and mission are essential to their branding strategy in the future and their current business position within the market.

In a nutshell they are the “why” that helps define a brand.


Growth requires investment –  whether that be staffing, outsourcing, technology or planning, and a growing business needs to factor in this cost.

And truth is, this is a major challenge for many a business. You know the rewards are there, but cashflow as always is king. Whether you choose to borrow for growth or fund it yourself, investing in your business at the right time in the right place can help it go beyond struggling to success, and reach a level you previously only dared to dream of.

Welcome to success

As Harvard Business Review notes, by the time a business attains “success”, the owner is enjoying a solid return, with healthy profits year-in, year-out. They have a comfortable client base and understand their position in the market.

Many small businesses attain a level of success and elect to remain in this phase. It affords owners the opportunity to sell their business at a profit, or step back and allow the business to run under management. By this point the business will likely have significant staff resources including some management personnel in place along, with the systems and procedures to ensure a consistent business outcome.

Alternatively, the operator may embrace success and then opt for further growth. This sees a small/medium business take the leap into the larger realm.

But the choice is yours to be made. All you need do is embrace the tools that counter the growing pains of business and move you beyond the realm of survival and into the satisfying reward that comes with success.

About Openseed

At Openseed we work with business to achieve that next level of growth. We do so by creating intuitive websites and devising quality content strategies in a brave new digital age.

We get to the heart of your business message to help your business rank foremost on Google and at the front of your consumer’s mind. You can learn more about our services here or contact us directly to learn more about how we can help.