There is no doubt that expanding your business involves experiencing growing pains.

When you started out in your business you probably had an idea as to how you would launch and maybe what it would look like once the business was set up and running smoothly. The image of how the finished article will look is was the great motivator that keeps you going when you get a bit stuck, and when the inevitable doubts start to turn up.

That’s the great value of having a vision. It helps us get out of bed in the morning and pushes on late into the evening. It acts as a permanent reminder that it is worth putting in the extra effort, and that we are moving from a place which is unappealing to one which is exciting and rewarding.

It is just that sometimes we doubt that we will succeed.

At those times I think it is worth remembering the successes we have had in the past. Successes like learning to ride a bike, swim, play a musical instrument, or even catch a ball. These are all skills were most of us have experienced a level of skill and success where once they were deficient.

If we look at how we went about learning those skills there are some parallels with the business problems we may be facing.

Firstly they all involved a personal desire to succeed. The reasons for the desire could be complicated, such as not wanting to be left behind in your peer group, or just wanting to have as much fun as your big brother or sister.

Secondly they all involved a certain amount of study and practice. Few new things in life come easy. As amazing as our bodies are we had to put hours of practice into these new physical skills to gain a degree of competence.

Thirdly most people need to have a teacher or a mentor who believes in them and to whom we give permission to encourage, cajole and criticise us. That person may have been a parent, or a professional teacher, but in our eyes we believed that they knew what they were doing. We trusted them and were prepared to follow their instruction. As we get older finding those people gets harder but they are still out there, albeit in a different form.

Finally learning any skill means making mistakes, having failures and being despondent. It means falling off the bike, getting the fingering wrong when learning to play the piano, or not knowing the words when learning a new language. Taking risks and making a mess of things is the only way to progress. No one became skilled at anything without experiencing failure. The difference between those that achieve mastery and those that don’t is willingness to persevere. Successful people are those that are prepared to accept the pain of failure yet still believe that they can succeed.

So what has that got to do with growing a business? As I said earlier I believe that at heart these are similar activities. Business is extraordinarily complex and requires a high level of mastery of a whole host of different human behaviours. If you are growing a business you need to be a good communicator, be able to think rationally and analyse problems, find solutions to those problems, be inspirational to your colleagues and encourage them, at other times be ruthless and single minded, show courage and compassion, to hold more things in your head than you previously thought possible. Often you have to live with uncertainty yet give the impression of total control.

It is a tough challenge, and like all tough challenges at times it is painful. But if you have created a lasting and valuable image of success then you will remain motivated. It is that which helps you find a solution when it seems hopeless. What is more, that sense of hopelessness and failure is all part of the pain of success. The moment you stop trying is the moment that you start to give up on your hopes for yourself.

I encourage you to feel the pain and keep going.

Photo: David Joyce

Simon Bruce

Author Simon Bruce

Simon qualified as a Chartered accountant with BDO London in 1982 and then began a career taking in banking, manufacturing and international trading working in UK, Europe and Australia. He has worked with publicly quoted companies, family companies and start-ups.

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