When you have a business with an online aspect—or 100 percent online—growth is usually a great thing. However, every business has to endure growing pains. The faster you grow, the more likely you are to do so recklessly, crumbling apart, and ultimately disintegrating your business. This doesn’t mean you need to plateau or go at a snail’s pace. However, achieving the right rate of growth is crucial for a lasting business.
This can be particularly true if you’re focusing on a geographic region that’s largely untapped, you’re in a very niche industry, or if you (and your partners) have limited experience with managing a company. There are many mistakes entrepreneurs should avoid, from a lack of mentorship to nepotism, and, don’t forget about the dangerous thrill of fast growth. Here are some of the pitfalls that might be ahead if you don’t tap the brakes:
1. Big eyes, small stomach
When the offers, clients, and projects start rolling in, it’s tempting to say, "yes," to everyone. You might already be feeling the symptoms of burnout, but when one more, “yes,” equates to an extra $20,000 that year, surely you can find the time, right? Make sure you follow Forbe’s warning signs of burnout and practice saying, "no." Balance and intuiting how much you can handle are crucial aspects of any leader.
2. You overwork your partners/employees
Particularly in the early stages of a business, you don’t need to just hire smart—you need to maintain smart. If you start piling too much work on either aspect, then combine an overload with a lack of training and support, you’re going to be abandoned. You’re only as good as your poorest partner/employee and remember that they probably have less passion for the project than you. Grow together and practice empathy, or else you’re going to have a mutiny on your hands, (or worse, desertion).
3. You don’t have time to learn
As an entrepreneur, you learn from both mistakes and successes. However, you need time to process, digest, and reflect on every milestone so you can do better the next time around. When growth is too fast, you speed through these processes or miss them altogether. This ultimately will end with you riding a stationary bike. You keep peddling faster, but you’re not really going anywhere.
4. You start getting sloppy
Imagine you have five minutes to write a 600-word essay, then you’re given 45 minutes to write another one. Even if you can race through relatively well in 15 minutes, if you force yourself to sit there with fingertips to keyboard for 45 minutes, it’ll end in better results. You’ll re-draft, edit more carefully, and maybe even re-craft some sections. It’s the same with business—speed will often equal poor quality. This goes double if it’s a new landscape for you.
5. You’re a red flag for investors
When meeting with investors, they’re not asking about growth and timelines because they want to be astounded by the figures. They’re trying to see what your growth rate is and if it’s a red flag one way or another. They know from years of experience that fast growth usually ends in a crash and burn, and that’s something they don’t want to be a part of. When the pros are running for the hills, slow down and ask yourself why.
Growth is only a positive when it’s paced correctly. A small business is a marathon, not a sprint, so train and move accordingly. Otherwise, you may end up with 15 minutes of fame, instead of a lifetime.