One of the many privileged problems of having a successful company, particularly when it grows fast, is dealing with huge amounts of responsibility. A business can go from doing nothing or doing okay to doing amazing in a very short amount of time with the right strategy.

And women who are leading these companies often have to go through extreme hardship to cope with what’s happening in their company.

  • They work longer hours.
  • They carry the workload and responsibility of 6 or more people.
  • They have to deal with new problems they’re not equipped to deal with.
  • They feel uncomfortably stretched, incredibly overwhelmed and confused.

And I see so many women in these successful companies confused, because…

This is everything they had ever dreamed or hoped of happening in their business, but it’s not what they thought it would be.

It’s hard.

The problems they face are even harder than the problems they had when the company wasn’t exploding. And inevitably, when going through any really difficult, challenging and complicated chapter in life, we experience trauma.

We experience trauma in business too.

The trauma that I see in business falls into one of two categories:

  • The trauma of having been so unsuccessful for so long
  • The trauma of success happening too quickly

The trauma of having been unsuccessful is a whole other post, and I will get into that at another time (it is planned, don’t worry).

But in this post, what I actually want to focus on is the trauma associated with fast growth in product companies.

What the CEO of a successful product business goes through

I’ve written about this topic a little before, so I’m not going to go deep into the mechanics of product businesses and what happens to the internal parts of the business when the volume of orders increases drastically and suddenly.

But what I do want to focus on specifically is the CEO’s experience of this growth.

Typically, a huge influx of orders and money challenges everyone’s concept of themselves. Even if you’ve had a high-paying job before, even if you’ve had a successful company before, taking a business from nothing to more money than you could have ever dreamed of making stretches everyone.

And I don’t mean that it stretches you like a gentle yoga class.

I mean it stretches you like the chiropractor who held you down on the table and forced you to stretch your hamstrings while you were crying because it hurt so badly…

Whoops, there’s my childhood trauma.

All jokes aside, real growth in a business is incredibly painful and stressful. Ideas that you’ve had about yourself, your business and your identity are challenged tangibly and suddenly everything you’ve known about how you do things and how the world is is wrong.

In fact, in a lot of ways having a suddenly successful business is a lot like a finding out your partner is cheating on you.

It makes you question yourself and your version of reality and whether you are worthy of the success and the money.

Oh boy, then there’s the money.

I’ve been talking a lot with my clients recently about “enough lines”. Enough lines is the amount of money in which you feel you have enough money and this is good enough.

When you go through a sudden period of explosive growth, your enough line is shattered. Your concept of money and how much you feel comfortable and safe having is destroyed.

Weirdly, the more you go over your enough line in terms of your business’ revenue (and more importantly, your business’ profit), the more UNSAFE you feel.

It’s a weird catch-22 that people don’t expect when they dream of building a successful business, because you feel unsafe when you don’t have the money, but you feel even more unsafe when you have more than you thought you could ever have.

And that’s where things really start to fall apart.

As you experience these sudden shifts – strong feelings of being stretched beyond your limits, more work hours, more responsibility, more things going wrong, more money than you feel comfortable with – you start to sabotage.

The way I see this happen with women in business is usually one of the following:

  1. They swing wildly back to their worst month because it feels safer to not have enough than it does to have more than enough
  2. Or they hoard as much of the cash as they can and don’t do the things they know they need to do to continue growing, because more growth = more pain

And this is what I call past growth trauma.

My coaches call it a flinch.

Unfortunately, it’s one of the things that I see stopping really successful women in business from feeling good about the company they’ve built, the success they’ve had and going after the next level of their goals.

So the question then becomes, how on earth do you fix past growth trauma?

Well, as you can imagine, it’s a complete internal game.

It’d be really easy for me to write:

But in my experience, just reading those things isn’t enough to start doing the work. It certainly wasn’t for me – it’s called past growth trauma for a reason, right?

Trauma isn’t something we tend to lean into. If anything, it’s the complete opposite – we run away. So not only does telling you to do this stuff NOT work, it doesn’t help you.

Because really the first step is acknowledging that you carry trauma from the business. And not being judgmental that that trauma comes from success.

Because trauma is trauma, whether it comes from a positive business event or the worst thing that’s ever happened to you as a person. Your body doesn’t store it differently – it’s all stored the same. In the body.

And if you want to talk about what you’re facing and dealing with, I’m here.

Seriously, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

I’ve not only been on this journey myself (many times), I’ve helped clients walk through and past it.

I would love to be there to help you.