The Ant, The Grasshopper, and the SOPs: Prepare for Growth Before You Need To


When entrepreneurs and small businesses start out, it’s an exciting time. There are so many things to accomplish and so many items to check off the ever-growing lists.

There are people to talk to, webinars to attend, prospects to woo, and reputations to build. It can be heady, and it’s a full-time job in and of itself. That’s the lure for many business owners, the ability to make their own decisions, prioritize as they see fit, and shift gears at a moment’s notice.

And all of that is necessary work during the hectic building phase. Most founders find it exhilarating, if not seductive.

In a field one summer’s day, a Grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart’s content. An Ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest.

Unfortunately, what often happens is the pace never lets up. There is always a new “top priority”, a timely marketing message, and many new shiny objects. The business building provides the adrenaline, and the business owner, addicted to the rush, loses focus and forsakes discipline.

“Why not come and chat with me,” said the Grasshopper, “instead of toiling and moiling in that way?” “I am helping to lay up food for the winter,” said the Ant, “and recommend you do the same.”

If you are among the latest cohort of entrepreneurs, it will serve you well to keep Aesop’s famous fable about discipline top of mind as you navigate the early days of ‘boss-hood’. It’s important to remember to do the less exciting work of building the foundation that your business rests on so that when things really take off, you have a stockpile of tools at your disposal. Take, for example, your Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).

“Why bother about winter?” said the Grasshopper; we have got plenty of food at present.” But the Ant went on its way and continued its toil.

When luck (or strategy and talent – whatever you choose to call it) strikes, and you find that there is more client work than you can perform alone, you can be sure you won’t have time to document AND train someone to help you. Even the most talented teammates require onboarding and guidance, and documented procedures, even in their roughest form, cut that time significantly. That’s time you get back to do more business building, the stuff that brings in clients.

When the winter came, the Grasshopper found itself dying of hunger, while it saw the ants distributing, every day, corn and grain from the stores they had collected in the summer.

If you bypass creating process and policy documents in the early stages of growth, the problem is, you will have to stop your growth in order to create them at a later, and much more inconvenient time. And if you are in a competitive market, that means your competition will fill the void you’ve left while you are attending to the foundational work that could have been addressed concurrently in your early-stage development. It means you grind your gears and your engines seize until you explain, train, and upskill your colleague(s) to get yourself and your business back on track.

Then the Grasshopper knew... It is best to prepare for the days of necessity.

So, start documenting what you do as you do it, and allow for room to update and iterate as you go. If you love business development, think of this as a journaling process. Your administrative documents are meant to evolve as you grow and find better ways to accomplish tasks, and they are meant to assist you and your team by clarifying ‘how to get from A to Z’ in the best way possible.

Take the time to do the mundane and find the pleasure in refining your ideas. It’s your future you are investing in, and it’s your hard work you are memorializing. When there is no more time left in your day to attend to administration, and all of the irons are hot, you’ll be grateful to know you can strike that next deal because you have prepared in advance.



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About Lizabeth Wesely-Casella

Lizabeth Wesely-Casella is a skilled strategic advisor specializing in attrition mitigation, workflow management, process improvement, and culture.With over 20 years of experience as an administrator and policy and programming consultant, her work has contributed to successful project outcomes in federal health policy, international program development, for-profit, and non-profit/association management.

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