Entrepreneurs’ main Challenge – The Growth vs. Panic continuum

Go on. You know you want to.

As part of the ‘Journal of a Start-up’ I thought I’d reflect on what I’ve found to be the most important aspect of starting a company – state of mind. Or rather, degree of panic. The cornerstones of business we often hear discussed; cash, investment, marketing, model etc. all pale into insignificance if you’ve become a nervous wreck, quivering behind your computer and asking yourself why the hell you don’t just stack shelves in Tesco.

This article’s about gritting your teeth and vowing to become as resilient and robust as you need to be to grow from ‘entrepreneur’ to ‘businessman/woman’. This brings us on to a little graph I created which was the inspiration for this article. It’s called the ‘Growth vs. Panic Continuum’. We’ll come to this later…

Twitter's growth - even the big boys panic before the takeoff

Most businesses’ growth, when plotted on a graph, takes on the classic ‘hockey stick’ shape. This means it’s flat for ages, sometimes years, before the business either folds, or a meteoric rise in growth rate kicks in.

But this early flat-line in growth is unfortunately not as peaceful and relaxing as its gradient might suggest. For the average small start-up beneath the calm surface of that flat line lurks an entrepreneur, working like a trojan for little, if any income.

Now we all have a tipping point. Even us brave entrepreneurs who risk cash and career on a hunch have that threshold beyond which we can’t operate. The straw that breaks the camels back can be completely unrelated, like the spilt cup of tea last week which left me in a heap on the sofa refusing to do any more work, but these events are symptomatic of the rising levels of stress and panic associated with running a business is refusing to ‘hockey-stick’. The key to dealing with this (I believe) is twofold – suppressing the rising panic and being patient.

Growth vs. Panic Continuum - inversely proportional - as business growth increases, entrepreneur panic levels decrease. I hope.

Fig. 2. ‘The Growth vs. Panic Continuum’ above shows the three phases of business. Take a look to determine which phase of personal development you fall into:

Phase 1 – Entrepreneur – Your business is flat-lining. Very little or no growth is accompanied by rising levels of panic. Should I carry on throwing my time and money on this? This phase tests your resolve like nothing else, you’re operating on pure belief in your concept, dogged determination and probably a degree of stubbornness. If you can stick it out, you’ll become a businessman, but the temptation to fold and get a job stalks you like a discouraging leopard.

Phase 2 – Businessman – Or woman. As your business starts to grow, your panic levels stop rising. Thank god. This helps you become less subjective and – more objective, which in turn improves your decision making and state of mind. If you keep a level head, and growth continues to rise, you stand a genuine chance of reaching the goal, (see graph) the crossover into phase 3, after which you’ll be LOL, laughing all the way to your yacht.

Phase 3 – LOL (Laughing out loud) – LOL phase is the dream. You can afford to de-stress, get nonchalant and generally LOL more and panic less. Think Bill Gates, Zuckerberg, Branson etc. The common link is that they’re all smug. Suppressing the urge to LOL no doubt. The existence of this phase proves that Degree of Panic is inversely proportional to Business Growth.

However, regardless of the above the only way start-ups and ambitious entrepreneurs turn into true businesspeople is through the support of others. If YOU see a new business with good values, like OYPT, Responible Safari Company and Eco-Outsource, do what Cuckoo Vine does and try your very best to support them. Choose them over the big multi-nationals, tell your friends and praise their efforts, only this way can we support the next generation of socially and environmentally responsible entrepreneurs.

Obviously this is all theory, but I hope in a few years time to revisit this post and reflect on my journey. Only time will tell whether this model stands true. Of course the only way for me to test it, as with all entrepreneurs, is to hang in there, to maintain a positive and determined mindframe and to work with passion. With the occasional break to draw ridiculous graphs.



Cuckoo Vine – Businesses with Values

Cuckoo Vine aims to promote UK businesses with integrity and values. It’s a platform to celebrate the good guys out there. If you have something to say about a great company, or you think your business belongs in the mix, get on Cuckoo Vine. It’s free!