Understanding the Potential of Growing Pains

In a prior stage of my life, I spent considerable time in classes and clinics related to sports medicine. People from various walks of life and differing athletic abilities would come in to either rehab an injury or to help strengthen an area in order to achieve high performance. I began to notice what I thought at the time was an odd truth. People came in for “treatment” and this treatment caused them pain. There was a saying that was meant to provide comfort to the wincing faces – “Therapy is not always therapeutic”.

This phrase is also true in the business world. Achieving high performance does not come without some pain and sacrifice. We can discuss the clichés of building our business through blood, sweat and tears just as these athletes worked to get to the top of their games. But what strikes me as an important mindset to have for business families is making sure that when we encounter the stresses associated with building our business that we ensure that it is Pain with a Purpose.

Nobody (or perhaps more accurately, few people) enjoy or seek out pain. However, if we understand the causes, purpose and the pending resolution to our pain, the impact and interpretation of our pain can be minimized. An example that we have worked through involves a business family that undertook a major expansion. As you read about the expansion, try to put your family and business in this position and think about your ability to undertake a similar situation.

The business in question was in a good place overall but they were ready to take things to the next level. In our evaluation of their business health, their business was waiting for them to take advantage of opportunities. In other words, they had to make a decision involving good options. The chosen option was expansion. Future generations were working their way into the business and although the founding family was well supported by the business, in order to support more families of future generations growth was necessary.

There was extensive planning and analysis completed including all involved family members. In assessing the overall plan, the growth would have positive contributions to the business and ultimately to the family. But it was also important to stress test the business to make sure that there was enough of a buffer to withstand some surprises. There will be pain during this growth and we needed to understand how much pain the business could tolerate along the way.

The growth had roughly a three year cycle and it was very important that the family understood at the beginning what to expect at each stage. Beginning from a high level of business health, year one of expansion put significant stress on the business. Business owners operating in this area usually are kept up at night by their business. Debt is higher, cash flow has not yet reached its peak and there are new realities being dealt with given the challenges of growth. But the family understood that this was coming and therefore, much of the emotion of this temporary reality was reduced. They knew where they would be, what the end goal was and what they needed to do to reach their destination.

Year two brought more stability as the business was now strengthening and the family was gaining confidence. In following the plan and understanding their path they were able to stay on track through some stressful times. Year three returned the business to a very healthy position where they were really free to pursue their vision. If we were at the sports medicine clinic their rehab and training would have worked and they would be ready to resume full activity. You still have to compete hard and play the games, but the necessary steps had been taken to put them in position to achieve high performance.

While therapy may not always be therapeutic, a takeaway from this example is to understand that stress and pain will be part of the process but the knowledge that it will happen and how it will be overcome will pay off in allowing you to focus on achieving the goals of a plan. As you think about your business ask yourself how much pain you can withstand before the stress becomes detrimental. Have you planned for this and how can following your principles help guide you through such periods? In working to maximize your performance there will be times of pain. We just hope that it is pain with a purpose.