There’s a common misconception that fast-growing startups have it made: They’ve found a business recipe for success and are on the fast track to making millions. Unfortunately, that’s not the case — high growth equals high uncertainty. Think starting a business from zero is a risk? Try taking a risk when you have 30 employees’ livelihoods on the payroll.
When speaking to the fastest-growing companies at the Inc. 5000 conference, what resonated with me most was that, regardless of industry or size, fast-growing companies all face very similar challenges that relate to scaling a business — from cash flow issues to retaining top talent to the temptation to depend on one large client.
At the event, everybody could have been high-fiving each other, celebrating their growth. Instead, many leaders took the chance to share their challenges and take advantage of the caliber of people attending the conference. Here are 12 statements that prove that running a fast-growing company isn’t a cakewalk — and that they, too, deal with growing pains:
“The biggest challenge is keeping your family happy and constantly deciding when to miss important family events because work demands it. Working hard is not a sacrifice as long as you achieve your ultimate objective.”
2. Larry O’Connor, Founder and CEO of Other World Computing
“As our organization grows, a key objective for me is to recruit the talent we need to grow and to ensure we have the right programs and benefits to not only retain this talent, but enable them to perform at their best. The things we can control are the easy part; what takes up time are the changes we have no control over. For example, recent government programs and policies, such as the Affordable Care Act, are requiring us to restructure our current programs to ensure we are in alignment.”
3. Dean Parker, Founder of Callis
“The top challenge faced by fast-growing companies is balancing the use of capital with hiring the right talent at the right time. It is a balancing act that an entrepreneur must get right in order to build a highly successful business, not only in profit, but also in culture.”
4. Josh Phillips, President at Pyxl
“Balancing the needs of the business — growth, cash flow, new opportunities — with employees’ needs is the biggest challenge we face. Working with younger employees has presented a whole new set of challenges and opportunities that go back to having a culture of growth that everyone buys into. We are focused on bridging those areas and creating a sustainable business model.”
5. Barg Upender, Founder and CEO of Mobomo
“Our team is growing fast. We are struggling with setting up career tracks for development teams, project/account managers, and sales/marketing teams, and we are trying to set up controls and metrics to run all projects profitably.”
6. Andrew Field, President and CEO of PrintingForLess.com
“When you have a month of 20 percent year-over-year growth, you are scrambling. It’s challenging to get away from the day-to-day tasks and activities and concentrate on the big picture and strategy for future growth.”
7. Matt Grebil, Entrepreneurial Wrangler of Three Twins Ice Cream
“Company culture is generally formed fairly early on by founding members and key management personnel. These individuals work very closely together, making it relatively easy to maintain company culture. But as you start to add new personalities (not to mention additional locations), it can become a real challenge to assimilate all of these individuals and maintain the company culture.”
8. Tom Sullivan, CEO and President of SoundConnect
“Getting the right people on the bus is hard. I’m picky, but I think that is a good thing. If you don’t have enough of the right people, then you will try to do everything yourself. Startup leaders wear too many hats, and it can prevent you from meeting your goals and growing your company like you should be.”
9. Mark Miller, Vice President of Marketing at Emergenetics International
“As a fast-growing company, the biggest challenge we face is capacity. We have increasingly been able to build our demand, but ensuring we have the right people to execute on this demand is really tough. There are brilliant potential employees, but truly understanding what kind of hires we need and how to get people up and running quickly, effectively, and productively is our biggest challenge.”
10. Vinny Antonio, President of Victory Marketing Agency
“Cash flow management for a rapidly growing, bootstrapped company can be harder than the world’s most difficult Sudoku puzzle. It’s almost a full-time job staying on top of who owes you what and who you owe, and then prioritizing those payments. All the while, you’re pushing for more growth, but with that comes additional expenses — most notably, your executive team. Good talent doesn’t come cheap, and you often have to find creative ways to lure the right personnel to your team.”
11. Gopi Mandela, President and CEO of Remote Tiger, Inc.
“When founders of companies are experiencing fast growth, it is easy to get entrenched in the daily grind and lose track of the big picture. The challenge lies in building the right management team so you can stop playing the contextual role of a COO and start being a CEO.”
12. Todd Palmer, Owner and President of Diversified Industrial Staffing
“The biggest challenge faced by fast-growing companies is a lack of employees with the skill sets needed to continue to drive revenue. The public school system in America is failing miserably to build the next generation of working professionals at a rate to match businesses’ needs. Combine this lack of homegrown talent with the visa challenges to bring in skilled talent from outside the U.S., and American small businesses are battling for talent on a daily basis.”
AUTHOR: John Hall is the CEO of Influence & Co., a company that assists individuals and brands in growing their influence through thought leadership and content marketing programs. Influence & Co., one of the leading providers of high quality expert content to the world’s top publications, is the creator ofContributor Weekly. Connect with John on Twitter or Google+.