Is your business an awkward teenager?

I often find myself referring to mid sized enterprises as the awkward teenagers of the business world. This isn’t due to the fact that they’re often just entering their actual teens in terms of years in business, although many are, but more due to some of the characteristics typical of this group.

  1. They have unpredictable growth spurts
  2. They suffer from occasional breakouts
  3. They’re sometimes not very communicative
  4. They can think no one understands them
  5. They’ve started to “sleep in”


Here we look at each trait and how to deal with it so it works for you not against you:


Unpredictable growth spurts

There’s no getting away from the fact that it’s a lot easier managing a consistent growth curve than one that bucks all over the place. That said, mid sized businesses are ideally positioned to manage and capitalise on this, given that they’ve got more resource and structure to them than small businesses but are still agile enough to respond to dramatic shifts effectively, unlike their FTSE 250 siblings.

Make it work for you

Create a simple, easy to execute scale up plan that’ll allow you to quickly respond to and make use of demand spikes. Then take a look at your last couple of years data to identify where demand spikes have occurred. You can use this data to figure out at what point on the uptick you ran out of delivery resources and had to back off, then use that to create a reporting marker that triggers your scale up plan in just enough time to avoid this peak going forward.



A mid size business has generally outgrown the “oh wow, everything is leaking and there’s not enough duct tape in the world” reality of a startup. Bit they’re not so far out of the woods that the wheels don’t come off in some areas, some of the time. You might have a disgruntled employee wreak havoc before leaving for instance. We like to call these breakouts, because much like teenage spots they can make your mid sized business look a little less perfect for a while but, effectively treated, they’re unlikely to cause any long term damage.

Make it work for you

Create a method of triaging your breakouts, something simple that will enable you to quickly assess the potential damage to your business. We like to look at:

  • Scale: How big is the actual problem in its subject/nature?
  • Scope: How far does the effect of the problem continue? A team, the whole business, your whole customer base?
  • Duration: How long is it likely to be an issue for if we respond appropriately?



Often, we see mid sized businesses that haven’t shaken off their small business mentality and it usually hampers their growth. They’re still in that bootstrap phase where cheapest is best and marketing is conducted as a reactive and often improperly measured shoot from the hip type activity. It’s worth noting that this is rarely the fault of the marketer in post, they are usually fighting for autonomy against a founding senior leadership figure or group.

Make it work for you

Check that your budget is appropriate to your size and market situation. Then check that you have a marketer of sufficient skill and seniority to be entrusted with this budget. Finally, get out of their way and reduce your input to holding them accountable for delivering measurable results that help the business to prosper and grow.



We’ve all heard that immortal line from older kids and teens “you just don’t understand!” And it can be like that for a mid sized business too. You’re not a tiny, excited nipper with your whole business life ahead of you, nor are you yet big enough to feel a little intimidated and out of your depth round the large company “grown ups”. It’s an awkward phase and one best managed by spending time with people who really get you.

Make it work for you

Find partners who really understand the stage you’re at right now. Other businesses who work with businesses like yours will respond better and support you better through the inevitable growing pains typical of your journey through this stage towards the big leagues.


Sleeping In

We’re always going on about how mid sized businesses should use their relative agility to pivot round their bigger rivals. And it’s true that they both can and should. But they need to guard against the inroads that growth tends to make in this dynamism. The bigger you get and the more like a big company you become, you’ll necessarily add more layers of people, processes and systems to help you run effectively as you scale. The danger is that when not properly implemented and managed, these things can slow you down and lead to your business “sleeping in” whilst your smaller rivals are already up and cracking.

Make it work for you

Most businesses put a huge amount of time and effort into evaluating and planning a change before they implement it, whether that’s a process, system or people change. What far fewer do is evaluate whether the expected benefits of the change are fully realised and even fewer than that actually go on to reverse changes that don’t live up to expectations. Those who do all 3 stay far nimbler for far longer than their similarly sized rivals.


Hopefully some of this rang a few bells, let us know if you have other traits to add to the list!