A start-up company is often very quick to launch. However, turning it into a real business often takes a lot more time, energy and effort. Buying a domain, building a website and opening a number of social media accounts is the easy bit; what follows requires endurance, patience and nurturing.

It is estimated that it will take a minimum of four years to begin turning a start-up into a full-fledged business, but to fully achieve this goal could take between seven and ten years. Experts in start-up enterprises – such as James Hopkins, founder of James Hopkins Coaching Limited – often find that the same patterns occur over and over again, with many entrepreneurs treading the same path and coming across similar obstacles.

The first year of any start-up enterprise is full of victories and multiple reasons for celebration. However, many of these victories are easy wins, such as incorporating the company, launching the site, and perhaps attracting some press. At the time, this feels like real progress, yet it often distracts from the long-term goals, such as becoming a financially viable and commercially successful company.

The second year can make this painfully clear, as the savings are gone, and debt is accruing – which often causes the entrepreneur to question their decision to launch a start-up company in the first place. The best tactic to survive the second year of a start-up is to find small milestones to work towards, taking small steps towards achieving growth.

At year three, entrepreneurs frequently ask themselves if it is worth continuing with the start-up, as they feel disappointed with the progress they have achieved. They might be struggling financially, losing energy for the project, or losing faith that it will all work out in the end. What entrepreneurs in their third year often don’t understand is that it is too early to expect success – that in fact, success is very likely to be at least another two or three years away. This is a good moment for reflection, to consider if the prospect of continuing as-is for another couple of years is both possible and motivating.

The fourth year regularly brings more success, as it takes this long to refine, adjust and tweak every element of the business, whether it’s the product, the branding, the economics, the target customer or the team. Some entrepreneurs and businesspeople compare establishing a start-up with that of growing a Chinese bamboo tree, as the two processes are surprisingly similar.

Much patience and persistence are required to grow a Chinese bamboo tree, as the seed remains underground for the first three years – without any sign of growth, change or reward for watering and maintaining it. After three years of watering the seed, the fourth year may produce just a couple of centimetres of tree above ground. However, in the fifth year, the Chinese bamboo will shoot up, growing 80 feet into the air in just six weeks.

It would be impossible for the bamboo to grow to such an incredible height – and in such a short period of time – without the many years of nurturing and care that came in the five years before. The same can be said of success and growth within a business; it requires constant maintenance, care and nurturing to enable rapid growth.

Putting in a lot of effort without seeing any immediate rewards or results can be disheartening, but it doesn’t mean that the start-up is a failure; in fact, it is slowly and quietly strengthening the business so that it is able to support itself during times of rapid growth and expansion. For further information about business growth, please refer to the embedded PDF.