I work a lot with founders and CEOs of start-up companies, and they often talk to me about how tough it is to get a business off the ground. What they don’t realise is that at any stage in its life cycle, running a business is a challenge.

While there are many stress points in running a business, one of the most surprising is when the company starts to grow. No matter how awesome you are as a leader, a time of growth can still throw you off balance.

Coping with change

It’s the pace of change that effects people most. Sometimes it happens before you realise it and then the issue is the race to keep up. Your team suffers just as much as you do, so the challenge here is being able to cope with change yourself, and still motivate and guide the team.

Adapting systems

Growth brings with it the need to update your current systems or introduce new ones to cope with the changing demands. It’s a time-consuming process because you’ve got to go back to square one in lots of ways, and trace the work flows through your business to find where the system is not keeping up. Then you must work out a new system, whether it’s people, process or technology driven. For business founders and many CEOs, this doesn’t come easily to their entrepreneurial natures. Yes, it’s painful.

Managing the money

Growth usually comes before the money does, unfortunately. It’s like going up a flight of stairs; you need to take that step before you get to the next level where the payoff lies. Growth brings with it a need to spend money on your teams, training and infrastructure. The most stressful part of it all is trying to maintain cash flow while still being able to upgrade things. Without current cash flow, your business will fail no matter how promising it appears to be for the future.

Monitoring risk

Change equals risk. That’s something all leaders should accept. Any change puts your business at risk whether you make it or it just happens. And risk comes in all shapes and sizes. It’s not just financial. Think about what’s happening to your systems and, more importantly, your people. Think about what they are feeling; their jobs are changing, the demands on them are changing, their skills need to change…. They will be more stressed than you! Great leaders constantly watch their people to make sure they are coping during a growth period.

Improving skills

Even the most amazing leaders can be side-tracked during a growth period. They devote all their time to upskilling people and upgrading their systems, and forget to take stock of their own needs. By the time the business hits a growth stage, leaders need stronger or different skills from those they had when they first started out. Leaders have to grow with – and often before – the business does.

Spotting opportunities

This sounds like a strange thing to list as a stress point, but it’s very hard to see past the quagmire of change. Yet great leaders are those who see opportunities and grab them. The pressure to be alert is enormous, and the regret at missing an opportunity can be devastating.

What’s the best way to help yourself through this stage or, even better, to prepare for it ahead of time?

Seek leadership coaching. Every successful business leader has worked with a coach or mentor at some time during their career. Not only can coaching give you any skills you need at each stage of your leadership journey, it can give ideas, guidance and solid advice when you need it. When you have a coach, there is always someone in your corner to help you along.

Business growth is exciting and it means you’re doing something right! Watch out for the stress points and get help when you need it.

After single-handedly taking her own business from blog to one of Australia’s most successful leadership companies, Sonia McDonald now works with founders and CEOs of start-ups. As an expert coach and advisor, she will to work with you one on one to shape your leadership and culture strategy.


About Sonia McDonald

Sonia McDonaldSonia McDonald, CEO and Founder of LeadershipHQ, is an Entrepreneur, Thought Leader, Dynamic Keynote Speaker, Leadership Coach and Author of Leadership Attitude (now on BOOKTOPIA!). She was recently named in the Top 250 Influential Women Leaders across the Globe. Sonia is one of Australia’s Leading Executive Coaches. She has over 25 years’ human resource management, leadership and organisational development experience. She has held senior leadership roles in organisational development, learning and development, human resources and talent management fields across the globe. She is also an inspirational and dynamic leadership and neuroscience keynote speaker.

Connect with Sonia at:

1300 719 665 or +61 424 447 616



1 Comment

  1. Really liked the important focus on adapting systems to cope with growth. This is a crucial aspect of any start-up’s transition into a large organisation. It requires the senior management team to expertly balance their focus between the external concerns of winning more business/investment and the internal concerns of deliberately designing systems and processes to scale appropriately to support the new business.

    Also really liked the focus on leadership coaching and mentoring when spotting new opportunities. The focus shouldn’t always be simply on spotting new business opportunities. Leadership growth is just as important.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post comment