January 3, 2020

Developmental Milestones in Business

Growing a business is a bit like raising a child. The infant business requires constant attention from those who conceived it. Long hours, frequent sleepless nights, crying spells and a general sense of confusion are to be expected. As an infant it is difficult to see what the business will grow up to be. Much time is devoted to wondering what this thing you have created is and, as a new business is not nearly as cute as a new baby, wondering why you have decided to torture yourself through its creation. The infant business is not yet capable of producing dependable financial returns so it can hard to see the long-term rewards.

As the business grows it enters the toddler stage. By now you can see the beginning of the business’s personality developing. What is working and not working are beginning to be visible. Still, chaos reigns. Toddlers are learning and growing at an incredible speed and with incredible growth comes room for plenty of mistakes. Toddlers fall down, they break things, they love the word NO. Temper tantrums come with the territory. The toddler-like business is gaining momentum and as it grows so do the frequency and size of mistakes and challenges that it faces. Learning to go with the flow and take the good days with the bad is essential whether parenting a human toddler or the toddler-like business.

Toddler years are when employees sometimes decide the chaos is too much. The constant change, the struggles, the growing need for systems that do not yet exist can separate the adventurous employee from the risk averse. For those who endure the toddler years the elementary years come as a welcome relief. Growth begins to slow to a more manageable pace and effective systems have begun to appear. Just as school-aged child begins to demonstrate independence in some areas, the business becomes able to manage its day to day tasks without the constant oversight of its creators. Challenges continue to arise but the well-constructed team, now built of those willing to stick out the hard days, are able to weather these challenges with relative ease.

As the team grows the inevitable happens. It enters adolescence. New members join the team and are surprised to find that the still developing company may look mature and organized one day and yet lack the structure they may have experienced when working for well-established institutions. The questioning from new employees, well intentioned though it may be, can be a source of frustration for the older team members. These ones, knowing the history of the business have developed a protective loyalty for it, much as a parent does for a child. The business, like the human adolescence, is yet again facing an opportunity to grow. Identifying the areas where additional systems are needed, filling in knowledge gaps that have been identified and recognizing the role of healthy conflict in the high functioning team are keys that aid the adolescent business as it matures.

As adolescence concludes the business has become an independent entity, influenced by its creators but no longer dependent upon them for its day to day survival. The resulting business like any high functioning adult will continue to grow, develop and change throughout its life cycle. The wellbeing of the business requires ongoing care but with the growing pains of youth addressed it is now ready to progress toward excellence. 


Who knew raising a child and growing a business had so much in common!– Rebecca Nightengale, RN