Growth Shouldn’t Hurt

Andrew Wilkinson
4 min readNov 7, 2017


In the first few years of starting my business, I told myself I’d never let the company get bigger than 10 people. Then 30 people. Then 50 people. I associated more people with more pain. More management headaches. More accounting. More office space. I didn’t want the all the stress.

Hiring hurt. The more people I had, the more stressed out I got, so I told myself that hiring was bad. I built a narrative that I needed to stop hiring, because every incremental hire made my life more difficult.

This was insanely stupid and limited my company’s growth for the first couple years. At my company, MetaLab, we make money by selling our time. The more team members, the more time to sell to clients, the more growth and opportunity. We had amazing clients lining up out the door, but because hiring more people made my life difficult, I only worked with a handful of them. I let growth stall and made a completely illogical business decision because it hurt to hire.

It hurt because I didn’t know what I was doing, not because having more employees is actually more difficult. In fact, I’ve found it to be the opposite.

I speak to entrepreneurs who tell me a sob story like this on a weekly basis. Their company could scale 10x, but because growth is coupled to personal pain they seize up. They tell themselves a story that allows them to stall out:

“I don’t want to sell ads on my site because I don’t like doing sales”

“I stopped accepting new work because I couldn’t take the travel”

“I never want my company to be bigger than 25 people because I hate dealing with everyone’s problems”

All of these problems have solutions which would allow the entrepreneur to completely distance themselves from the pain, whether it’s hiring someone to do the thing they aren’t good at, building a system that makes it irrelevant, or coming up with a better strategy. They may not get the solution right the first few times, but once the systems are in place, the right people are in the right seats, and they have a plan, it frees them up to set their sights on their true goals. The goals they would have if they weren’t limited by false narratives.

A couple years into my career, I figured this out. I now have a bunch of high-growth businesses and hundreds of employees (I thought I’d stop at 10!). When I tell people this, they assume I must be a workaholic. That I’m one of those insane CEOs you read about in Fast Company who sleeps in an oxygen tent and road bikes to the office at 5AM in order to get everything done. In reality, my life is calmer than it’s ever been.

I wake up late, don’t have many meetings, and don’t get many urgent emails or calls. I’ve built systems and hired great people and focused on avoiding things I don’t like, which has allowed me completely separate growth and pain. Our companies could 10x and my life wouldn’t change in a negative way because I don’t do any of the stuff I’m not good at or don’t enjoy.

And it’s not like I’m checked out. Every waking minute, I’m thinking about cool things we could do. New companies we could build or buy, feature ideas, people we should work with. I’m focused on the stuff I love and I don’t associate growth (or new things) with pain anymore.

Sure, some people truly want to keep their companies small for intrinsic reasons and are intentional about it. I totally respect that. What kills me is the entrepreneurs who are pained by their story, who have a chip on their shoulder and tell themselves that they “would, but” while they resent their more successful competitors.

Life’s too long not to try, but too short not to be lazy and enjoy yourself. Trust me: You can grow your company without making yourself miserable.

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