Entrepreneurs and business executives are culturally obsessed with maximizing business growth. And in the US, we’re arguably more focused on this than any other country. It is easy to get caught up in the mindset of business growth as a metric of success. As we say in America, “The sky’s the limit!”
When I started to research this article, my working title was How to break geographic self-bottlenecking. I planned to write about how to think bigger, expand into new markets and win the brass ring. However, after interviewing 10 local entrepreneurs, my mind was changed, and I had to change my angle as well, to Keep your business smaller.
When I asked these entrepreneurs why they weren’t expanding into other cities, almost every conversation quickly took a personal turn. I dug hard and asked tough questions, but each person shared compelling, well-thought-out reasons for not pursuing aggressive growth.
A vast majority of the 10 leaders had intentionally remained at their current business size, serving a smaller client base. This was a choice. And their reasons were shrewd, I realized, as I ruminated on these interviews. It even made me reconsider my own chosen path.
The benefits of not going “bigtime”
While bigtime founders enjoy a wild ride to the heights of success and often sell their companies for mind-boggling valuations, there are downsides to that trajectory. Once you reach those lofty heights, it is extremely stressful, often lonely and financially risky. There’s a steward-like responsibility that comes with financial success; and after selling the business, there is often a feeling of loss and even depression.
On the other hand, there are untold benefits of running a smaller, slower-growing company that creates strong personal satisfaction in multiple realms. Business success is not the only factor in leading a satisfying life — not by a long shot!
Consider these smaller-time benefits as you determine your growth strategy:
1. Less work, less stress
When you’re grinding every resource to “10x” a company, stress levels skyrocket accordingly. Growing a company rapidly involves 80-hour work weeks for a long time, and even when you go home, you’re likely to bring work with you, mentally or emotionally.
Alternatively, staying smaller lends itself to fewer hours on the job and much lower stress levels. Stopping work at a reasonable hour each day and not working every weekend or thinking about work day and night has significant lifestyle and health advantages.
2. Focusing on quality
Delivering a high-quality product or service for people and knowing some of those people gives you a warm, fulfilled feeling that is so satisfying — it’s hard to describe. When scaling rapidly, you get very little (if any) of this feeling.
Not to mention, higher-quality products or services often pair with higher profit margins and a larger bottom line.
3. Family time
Do you and your significant other enjoy adventuring together? Do you want to have dinner with your family every day and spend the weekends doing home activities? Have you ever wanted to coach your kids’ sports teams, or at least be home for bedtime every night? By staying small, you can more easily make time for life’s most important priorities.
4. Pursuing outside interests
Maybe you’ve always wanted to teach a class at your local college, get more involved in your community or make an impact with a charitable organization that speaks to you. You might even train for an endurance sport, breed dogs, scuba dive or become a competitive Scrabble player. The value of having the time to explore and pursue your interests can’t be overstated.
Thoughts from fellow entrepreneurs
The answers I received from entrepreneurs who were intentionally managing a smaller business were heartwarming and sincere. A typical response sounded like, “Yes, Barry, I could have grown to other cities and expanded my company, but at what price? A broken marriage, not coaching my kids, financial risk or even a pretty solid income but less or no independence? Not worth it.”
Renée Rouleau (EO Austin), wrote a great article about her 25 Lessons in 25 Years, detailing lessons her entrepreneurship journey taught her. She summarized her feelings on growth this way: “I always knew I wanted to build a great company and not a big company putting people over profits. Because I’ve chosen to own 100% of my company, I have full control of every move, so I can grow slow and remain in control of my journey.”
She goes on to share that her beliefs get validated when she talks with other entrepreneurs who have grown their companies rapidly and taken outside investment only to experience total chaos and frustration. Well said, Renée!
In the end, what started as a “take over the universe” article became a “keep doing what you’re doing” article.
Each entrepreneur builds their company differently, and for reasons that bring deeper meaning to their individual experiences. As you consider your growth strategy, take a 360-degree look at what is possible, talk with leaders who have chosen different avenues and consider your core values and priorities as you set your course for the future.
With a thousand different paths leading to happiness and success, you’ll be grateful you took the time to consider the best way forward for you and your company.
Barry Raber is a serial entrepreneur, president of Carefree RV Storage, a 22-year member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), the founder of Business Property Trust, and an EO Portland Entrepreneur of the Year. He shares his successful business secrets at Real Simple Business. Read his previous blog contributions on Implementing A Collaborative Approach to Strategy, 3 Steps That Create a Bigger Future for You and Your Business, How to Run a Company With Two 10-Minute Weekly Meetings and Post-It Notes, 5 Questions to Get Your Brand Crystal Clear and 3 Gratitude Habits For Business Leaders To Motivate Your Team — and Yourself.
This post first appeared on Portland Business Journal and is reposted here with permission.