Grow Or Die: What Happens When A Business Stops Growing?
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What happens when you stop growing?
You’ve heard the phrase “grow or die.”
Unfortunately, I’m relatively certain it’s true.
Not because growth isn’t exciting. It is. And I love the thrill of chasing that hockey stick revenue curve.
But I can sympathize with the feeling that you’re on a treadmill. You can sprint; you can jog; you can even walk for a bit.
You can’t ever get off the treadmill, though.
Staying flat for too long has unexpected repercussions.
One of our clients went through this recently. After a period of rapid growth, they started having some issues scaling the business.
Quality concerns increased. Churn was up. Margins were eroding.
The CEO’s initial impulse?
“Stop growing until we can fix these problems.”
And you get it, right? She wanted to strengthen the business operationally sooner than later. Also—she was financially comfortable with what she was making from the business. So her personal incentive to grow had declined.
But the business isn’t just about what the owner’s getting.
(I know you know this. We all do. But sometimes, we lose sight of it.)
When you stop growing, opportunities inside your business start to dry up.
Pathways for upward career mobility disappear.
Your vision becomes less compelling: 3 years from now we will be doing exactly what we are doing today…
People start to drift away from the business. If you lose your best people, you aren’t staying in the same place.
You’re going backwards.
So how DO you address issues at scale without calling a timeout on growth?
Like everything else in business, you have to fix the problem while running the thing.
Change your mind. “I can’t keep growing” has to become “These are the metrics we can’t sacrifice as we grow.”
(Knowing what those metrics are will help.)
For this particular client, we found a solution in an unexpected place: departmental budgeting.
I had their team take the budget back to zero and only add in what was essential. We found they were leaking money all over the organization.
Removing that bloat increased their margins immediately.
Now they have some breathing room. They can work on quality fixes while they continue to step on the gas for growth.
It’s a tough pill to swallow, this always growing thing.
I get it.
It’s appealing to think that one day, you’ll be done building the business.
A company, though, is a living organism. Imagining a company that isn’t growing and changing is like asking a human to be done breathing.
It doesn’t have to feel impossible. Or exhausting. Or lonely.
If growth is something you want—but it’s also stressing you out—please, please connect with our team.