Walking Into Uncertainty: Growth in Perspective

Blog / Produced by The High Calling

Walking over storm water drains and man hole covers terrifies me. I think it’s the unknown darkness below me that makes my toes curl inward. I try to dodge the menacing holes, but every now and then, the rush of the crowd forces me to walk right over them. When this happens, the world slows, and I cannot get over them quickly enough.

Sometimes, my business gives me the same rush of fear.

After recently exiting my first tech company, I invested in another firm that moves in lead generation for events and venues. I play an active role in the company as an online editor, and for a brief period earlier this month, I felt like I was walking over a storm water drain, with nothing but the unknown darkness below me.

Our team has grown from 3 to 12 employees in the space of 6 short months, with more hires in the pipeline, and within a very small window frame of time, the entire business has changed exponentially.

A few things make a small start-up business like ours agile in it's first three years:

  • Two or three people work side by side and instinctively know what is happening in all elements of the business because of close, shared proximity.

  • Job roles are interchangeable as everyone pulls together to get everything done.

As the company grows, however, roles become more disparate. In our case, the team no longer shares proximate space, and instead, members are working remotely, virtually and individually in order to get through the growing demand for products and services.

Sometimes, without the team even recognizing it initially, the company’s agility starts ebbing away. It is a natural form of progression, but it brings its own challenges.

  • Simple tasks that were once dealt with efficiently don’t happen because no one has been assigned the role.

  • The team spends extensive effort and time to keep everyone in the loop about what is happening and when it is happening.

  • Meetings take up more and more of our working day.

  • Joint decision making is no longer possible because daily workloads require decisions that cannot wait.

Only teams with diverse skills pull through these uncertain periods of growth.

In our small tech company we try to see treading over a ‘storm water drain’ for what it is: a stunning growth phase and reason for celebration. We own up to mistakes and assumptions; we laugh at our individual idiosyncrasies; and we put the necessary processes in place to take things further, ensuring no one falls and all fears are managed.

In his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni details that absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results are the reasons for declining performance.

But teams that walk over the storm drains together with the intention of managing their growth, those are the teams who can breathe a little easier on the other side.

This article is part of an ongoing series on business lessons learned in the day to day setting of a small business tech environment. Other articles in this series are linked below.

Image by Darren Hester. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr. Post by High Calling Photo Editor, Claire Burge.