The fear of growth
When you climb onto a Ferris wheel of infinite radius, there is no returning. The ground falls away, people and buildings shrink. First your surroundings, then the city and then what might be your country are soon specks of dust in your view, and suddenly you are alone, high above with your stomach lurching, in a wheel that won’t bring you down. You had a chance before you buckled yourself, but not anymore.
That is how I felt when I read the balance sheet of my company this month. We started up 2 years ago with no idea of what we were climbing onto. Along the way we gathered a few crewmates, some of whom jumped down and went looking for a more predictable ride. At the end of the first year we shockingly made a profit; a good chunk, but it did not excite our imagination. But this year, our revenue has grown by 60%. The moment I read the figure presented by our auditor and mentally counted ones, tens, hundreds, thousands… to be sure, I was overjoyed and clapped my hands. The very next moment, my stomach lurched.
How am I going to keep up with this growth? Could I sustain it next year, give or take a few percentage points? Our team size has doubled in the second year. Can I provide for all of them and keep them safe on board while I bring in new members? A similar growth in the third year means doubling our capacity, resources, efforts and imagination. It is like starting up once more from scratch and holding together both creatures while walking the tightrope. I felt breathless like at the end of a marathon.
Before I started up, while I was still an employee at a fast-growing company, I took things for granted. How my employers won over clients, inspired new talents to join them, and pedalled this cycle over and over again to grow in size and respect. I didn’t realise the effort behind it at all, just enjoyed the fruits of it.
Now, my employers and companies like Infosys, Zoho are no more names we come across in news; they are kingdoms founded over generations of labour and talent - inspiring in me not only admiration, but also a sort of fear.
Someone said, “Build and they will come”, so I built. But I didn’t believe so many clients would come. This speed is confusing, even paralysing. But I know I can’t remain numb. I have to pull myself up from the bed and act. Go with the wind. Work with new people. Make new friends. Discover strengths and flaws. And keep building all through.
But to what end?
As a founder, as a person responsible for an engine I set in motion intentionally or not, I feel I must define a vision. Not the sort we see hanging in the lobby of companies; but something more fundamental.
Our aim is not to become Apple. Our aim is not to get listed. Our aim is not far away, it is deep inside - to feel every bit of the journey and enjoy it, whatever direction we take, however badly we are beaten.
If I can continue to deliver good work, continue to prioritize and respect every client, continue to feed my team challenges to keep their creativity burning, I think growth would take care of itself. I hope.