A new business has a lot going on. Those exciting early days can be filled with many decisions to make, tasks to accomplish and goals to set, all while dreaming of what your business is going to look like five or 10 years down the road.
However, much like any person growing up, those early years for any business will have a few awkward moments. While you nail down your vision, goals, team and workflow, your business is likely to hit a few bumps in the road. But a few hiccups doesn’t mean you should close down your email account and go back to the drawing board. In fact, navigating these growing pains can help you gain a stronger vision of what you want your company to look like and the paths you can take to get there.
Below, we’ll discuss common small business growing pains — and how to keep your team happy through it all.
Your employees — especially the early ones — are the backbone of your business. You’ll want to surround yourself with a team of dedicated, talented people who are motivated to work hard for your company while being flexible enough to navigate the many changes and challenges of working for a new business.
It can be hard for budding business owners to put the time into making sure their early hires are the perfect fits for their business — but it’s worth it in the long run.
Alexandra Samuel of Zapier writes that having a clear vision of your ideal employee can help you make sure you’re only hiring the best.
“Hire only A+ employees, and all the work you put into the hiring process will be repaid a thousand times over by what A+ workers can do for your growing business,” Samuel writes1. “But you aren’t going to hire A+ employees if you spend your time reviewing applications from people who will never be better than a mediocre fit for your needs. Better to get crystal clear on who you want to hire and what you want to hire them for — and then communicate that as sharply and clearly as possible.”
The swath of benefits offered to employees has changed over the years. When someone can get hired at a company that offers unlimited PTO and a wellness stipend, they likely won’t be keen to sign on to a new company that can’t offer the same types of luxurious benefits. Though you can potentially work your way up to healthcare plans, there are a few benefits that small business owners can offer that will show employees you care and attract more people to your job posting. These include benefits that promote employee wellbeing and mental health, and a relaxed and inviting office culture.
As four in five employees prefer benefits or perks to a pay raise, the choices you make to encourage employee wellness at the onset can give you a boost.
Some early benefits you can offer include:
- Paid mental health and sick days
- Flexible start times
- Free lunch
- Relaxed dress code
- Office snacks
- Activities like Fantasy Football, get-togethers and summer Fridays
- Employee recognition
- Discounts for gym memberships or classes
Developing a Positive Culture
Culture can make or break your business, so you’ll want to establish a culture of inclusion, care and compassion early on. Strike a balance between a motivated and dedicated workforce and one that fosters wellness and appreciation. That way, you’ll make sure your team is getting work done while still feeling cared for and supported during the workday.
Beth Lebowitz, founder of Auxana, calls an open line of communication and vulnerability between team members the trust collaboration.
“When your company is in growth mode, your foundation is shaky by default. Even companies that have implemented processes and invested heavily in talent can’t avoid growing pains,” she wrote in an article for Business2. “I teach clients to implement what I refer to as ’the trust collaboration,’ where teams are encouraged to have open, vulnerable communication in environments that promote safety and trust.”
Training New Hires
When you spend money to train a new hire, you want to make sure you’re giving them valuable insight and advice that will shape them into a valuable asset for your team. So you’ll want to make sure that your training program is thorough, comprehensive and accessible. Good training can help employees grow to be self-starters that know exactly what to do.
Training is especially important considering the cost of replacing an employee can be anywhere from one-half to two times that employee’s salary, meaning a high turnover rate can cost your company a lot of money.
Good training and onboarding will create team members that are confident in their work and in your company. That way, they will produce quality work for your company and have the vision and tools they need to succeed.
There’s a difference between working and working for something. Sure, it’s possible to sit at your desk and complete a few manual tasks, but it helps with morale to know the purpose behind what you’re doing and what you’re ultimately working towards. Establishing clear and attainable goals at the onset of your business can help keep your employees motivated, engaged and excited. It can also help with company organization and confidence. Break down your goals into long-term, medium-term and short-term, so your employees can have their eye on both the shore and the horizon.
“For businesses, the big picture is just as important as the day-to-day, if not more so,” Debrah Charatan, founder of BCB Property Management, wrote for ScoreNYC3. “It’s important that entrepreneurs think macro and micro when setting goals for their companies and meeting them. One without the other is just not good enough.”
Overwork and Work-Life Balance
Separating work from home can be a challenge for all entrepreneurs, but especially those who have just started out. The challenges of managing the many tasks that come with a new business can easily interfere with your personal schedule and ability to make time for family, relationships, friends and hobbies. However, not making time for these things can lead to burnout.
The strain can not only affect you as the boss, but can also lead to a high turnover rate and low morale at your company. According to the Asana Anatomy of Work 2021 survey, 71% of workers experienced burnout in 2020, and the number of employees working late rose to 87%.
Identify overworking and combat it before it becomes commonplace in your office. You can do this by establishing high vs. low priority tasks, taking care to delegate tasks or client jobs fairly among your crew and regularly checking in with your employees and with yourself.
People who decide to become their own boss often choose to do so because they like to be in control. Therefore, delegation may not exactly be your strong suit. But loading your plate full of tasks can be harmful to your own physical and mental health, as well as the health of your business. You’ll want to give up a few of your to-dos to people with more bandwidth to complete the task thoroughly, freeing up your time for more urgent needs while making sure the task is done right.
Angela Robinson of TeamBuilding thinks of delegation as a collaborative team building skill, in which every member of the team feels seen, needed and supported as part of the greater company.
“You can delegate effectively by putting the group at the center of all tasks,” she wrote on the TeamBuilding blog4. “I recommend explaining to all team members that individual actions affect the team at large. You can remind the work hogs that overextending could result in burnout, delays, and missed learning opportunities for other members of the team. Meanwhile, you can express to the work dodgers that the team depends on individual efforts.”
It can be easy to feel like there isn’t enough time in the day. Between meetings, project management and marketing, eight hours can start to feel like eight minutes. So, as the to-do list grows, so does the importance of managing your time wisely.
Inc. Magazine reported that entrepreneurs waste 21.8 hours per week on tasks that have little value or could easily be delegated to someone else. By being more diligent with your planning, delegation and work schedule, you can make sure you’re using your time effectively without putting too much on your own plate.
You’ll want to evaluate the tasks at hand to determine which are urgent, which are pressing but can wait and which are evergreen. From there, tackle your list to make sure the most important things get done first. And if you’re constantly feeling the strain of racing against the clock, it might be time to look into expanding your team.
How to Keep Your Team Happy
Growing pains are almost inevitable, but they don’t have to result in a disorganized business and unhappy team. By taking care to treat your staff right, you can grow alongside your business.
Transparency is key to establishing a strong partnership between you and your team. Being a transparent leader means keeping your employees in the loop with company happenings while being careful not to overshare.
Darren Perucci of BambooHR5 defines being a transparent leader as making sure your employees always know what to expect. “There should be no unpleasant surprises, no concerns around uncertainty, and no wishy-washy behavior that may weaken your reputation as a leader,” he wrote for BambooHR. “Transparent leaders strive to practice what they preach, set crystal-clear expectations, and communicate effectively with every member of their team.”
Be transparent by sharing company developments with your team, checking in and promoting a culture of honesty and support.
Communication is crucial for business success. More than just being clear about projects, contracts or other work in the pipeline, effective communication can create a camaraderie among the team that can make work life easier for everyone.
Creating a strong line of communication between employees is so important that 86% of employees and executives cite a lack of effective collaboration and communication as a major cause of business failure.
Effective communication can be internal meetings between employees and bosses, check-ins and work events that promote togetherness.
Live Up to Your Values
“Show, don’t tell” is an age-old adage. It’s true in everything from sports to book writing — and yes, even business. Telling your employees that you support them, care for their mental health and promote healthy work-life balance isn’t enough unless you also show them that these things are true.
That could mean waiting until their next work shift to ping them with a work-related topic, or checking in with them to make sure they’re doing okay after a hard week.
Setting company values like honesty, transparency, dedication and compassion is important. But even more so is sticking to these values to ensure that your employees feel that those goals are an honest representation of the culture at your business.
Gratitude is a win-win. Not only does showing your employees that you appreciate them foster a more healthy work environment, but it can also make employees work harder. In a survey from Glassdoor, 81% of workers said they’re motivated to work harder when they feel their boss appreciates the work.
Showing gratitude doesn’t have to be an extravagant gesture, either. It can be as simple as a phone call, note or email message telling your team that you notice the hard work they put in and that it’s appreciated.
For more tips on growing into your business, check out the following infographic.
Running into growing pains doesn’t mean that you’re a bad leader or that your business is destined to fail. It’s a natural part of business ownership. Surrounding yourself with a positive and hardworking team and arming your business with protections like business insurance can give you the confidence you need to grow through the awkward adjustments.
- The Small Business Guide to Hiring the Best Employees
- How to Build a Culture That Will Help Your Small Business Grow
- 4 Goal-Setting Strategies For Small Business Owners
- 10 Team Building Skills Examples & Definitions
- The Importance of Transparency in Leadership—What You Need to Know