From 20 to 50: How to manage growing pains

If, like me, your business has undergone major growth in the past few years, then you know exactly how hard it is to come to grips with a meteoric rise to success. From the press to the personal assistants to the pomade that I now have to import in bulk from Thailand, things can change in a hurry.

In my case, Gymglish recently made the transition from 20 employees to 50 over the course of about 2 years, and frankly this transition brought with it some growing pains. Here’s how we dealt with those pains, the Gymglish way.

More employees = more bathrooms

There’s frankly no way around it. Believe me, I tried to convince my business partner that part of the charm of our humble start-up was our lone underground urinal, but for some reason she insisted that more facilities were needed. She threw out words like “illegal”, “decency” and “inhumane”. More than once I heard the phrase “you’re a monster, I can’t believe I married you”, so eventually I relented. We now have 7 functioning toilets including a half bath with shower in our Paris office, and I couldn’t be happier. Sure, our toilet paper costs are through the roof, but that’s to be expected. With great success and influence comes a bigger bathroom budget, and that’s a price we’re happy to pay.

P.S. I’m divorced now.

Additional fire extinguishers

Remember when life was simple, and you only needed one fire extinguisher for your employees? Well, with more staff comes more regulations, and more regulations often mean more fire extinguishers. Jesus, do you know how much these things cost? They’re like 30 bucks on Amazon. Now imagine that times 4. You don’t need to be a math wizard to know that’s about 700 bucks. It’s like, can’t you guys just not start fires? I suppose that this too is the cost of growing a business, though I just wish my employees didn’t love starting fires so much. Maybe we should stop making so many lighters.

Middle management should do the dirty work

Being the boss of a company is not the carefree joyride that many people think it is. Sure, my salary is the biggest, and yes my office has multiple windows and a door that closes properly, but I still have problems like anyone else. There’s a group of pigeons for example that just sit and stare at me, and it’s upsetting and probably unsanitary. Anyhow, with a bigger company, communication has to change – I can’t just yell at whoever I want from my huge office on the top floor – that’s now a task delegated to middle managers. The beauty of this is that they’re asked to carry out instructions from upper management that they can’t change, and impose them on a group of people that no longer consider them peers. Not enough autonomy to make decisions, but enough responsibility to enforce company policy. Can you imagine how fun that must be for them? In any case – make your middle managers do the dirty work. Goodbye yelling at interns, hello yelling at middle management.

The Ostrich technique

I’ve already established my policy on new employees at the company – I don’t learn their names until they’ve made it past their probationary period.

Without names, I’m less likely to engage in wasteful human interactions like handshakes, smiles and hugs. I employ this strategy at least until these employees prove their value to the company, at which point I reluctantly learn a name or two. My solution is “the ostrich technique” – Stick your head into the ground and pretend they don’t exist. It’s a win-win for me and them- I don’t have to acknowledge the presence of other human beings, and they don’t expect any sort of constructive criticism, feedback, input or human interaction from me. 

That’s it. 4 simple tips to manage the growing pains of a successful business. Your mileage may vary of course, but in my niche industry of online language learning, these strategies are all you will need to navigate your meteoric rise. 

Gymglish CEO Todd Fakerton

This article is part of the Unofficial Gymglish Blog.

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