The high-growth Process

High growth firms (HGFs) are perceived to be vital to global economies because of their economic contributions. However, a research study into governmental support of HGFs in the UK found the speed and intensity of the growth process had a detrimental impact on the entrepreneur’s mental health.

HGFs are businesses that achieve high levels of growth and sustain this over a prolonged period. Research undertaken over the last 40 years has found HGFs create the vast majority of all new jobs, they have higher productivity levels, attract greater levels of investment, are more innovative and deliver higher levels of perceived customer value than standard or low-growth firms.

It is not surprising that governments across the globe are actively seeking ways to encourage the number of HGFs and support their growth and development. One way this is being done is using specialist business growth support programs, known as business accelerator programmes (BAPs).

A four-year qualitative research study into the growth and support of HGFs on the Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme (BWAGP) by Dr Rachael Rees-Jones of the University of South Wales found while support produced both tangible and intangible positive effects, the speed and intensity of the process were described by founders as “extremely difficult” and “tremendously challenging”, with many reporting negative impacts on their mental health.


The research also uncovered a disconnect between the type of support the founders desired and received. For example, while support to enhance strategic planning and greater access to resources were positively correlated with various types of quantitative growth metrics, the founders craved human-centred support, such as mentorship from entrepreneurs who had also experienced the high growth rollercoaster.

The research found the entrepreneurs experiences negatively impacted their ambitions and desire for future growth.

The research indicates creating the right conditions in which businesses will flourish is not simply about strategic alignment or providing access to resources, it’s about treating entrepreneurs as human beings and supporting them through this difficult, but intrinsically valuable process.

The implications for high growth policy and practice mean that psychological and relational support is needed to help founders build resilience and manage the stresses and strains experienced during their rapid growth episodes.

To learn more, read the journal article by Professor Ross Brown and Dr Rachael Rees-Jones, ‘Learning to ride the high growth “Rollercoaster”: the role of publicly funded business accelerator programmes’.