Shh…it’s a secret. Growing your business can be intimidating.It may be time to release your next Big Idea into the marketplace. Perhaps you realised that just staying in business requires growth. You might feel excitement, doubt or any number of emotions. Hopefully, you have crafted a plan that gives you a step-wise system to follow. In my last post, I recommended reviewing your strategic plan so you had a clear framework for your business. This creates a guide as your small business moves ahead. But there is one area that isn’t examined as thoroughly. Many a great plan for growth has succeeded or died due to the business owner’s ability to manage his or her thoughts and feelings. Our emotions and ability to manage them highly influences how well we lead our businesses. The things that derail us, inspire us or motivate us are activated when we initiate a growth plan. Growth leads to change and change is unsettling. It stands to reason that we have thoughts and feelings about our growth initiatives. No matter what is driving the growth, there are three questions to answer. For someone leading and managing a small business, the stuff that gets most in the way is not the technical skills. No, the stuff that gets in the way is in our heads. Even psychological research over the last 30 years indicates that it makes a difference whe n you know what’s going on in your head. This is true even if you discover that your motivations are coming from desperation, boredom or something not quite acceptable or noble. 1. What do you expect? Expectations are funny things. When we don’t meet them, we experience feelings of loss. For most established small business owners, expectations are realistic. But…occasionally we get carried away with them. We want so much for everything to go well. Begin by writing down everything you expect from your growth phase. Read it back to yourself and notice which expectations sound realistic and which ones reflect your hopes, dreams and wishes. Avoid judging which ones are right or wrong. The point of writing out your expectations is to have a conversation with yourself. What do you hope to gain from pursuing this plan? Did you know this before you wrote down your expectations? 2. What is motivating you to start a new growth phase? Your motivations are an important piece of this. It may be that this growth phase is an intentional stepping stone to a bigger stage. It may be that you think you’re supposed to grow your business. Differentiating between desire to lead your small business to greater sophistication and the sense that it’s somehow expected is very important. I’ve worked with clients who discovered that bigger wasn’t necessarily better. They learned that it is more manageable and likely to succeed when growth is coupled with choice. 3. Why now? This last question is about timing. What is about now that makes implementing this growth phase important? One of my clients answered this question when her business attracted an influx of clients. She realised that hiring more staff was the only way she could make sure these clients were served well while she became CEO-like and maintained her focus on her overall strategic plan. For you, it may be about personal changes (interests, life events), market changes (new opportunities arise, ideal customer changes) or industry changes (product delivery innovations, new trends). It’s a conversation with yourself The three questions are an opportunity to create space between your thoughts, feelings and actions. The act of writing down your answers and reading them back to yourself makes it possible to introduce objectivity. You may affirm what is already true about you. Or you may discover an aspect that you haven’t paid as much attention to previously. By taking the time to do this conversation before you start your next growth phase, you reduce the likelihood that you will sabotage your efforts and give yourself options for how to manage your emotions and thoughts. What other questions do you see established small business owners asking? How do they relate to growth initiatives?