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How Much Growth is Right for You?

Penelope TrunkPenelope Trunk

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Growth is not always right for a business, or for the business owner. It’s important to take a step back and analyze your business to consider what your growth projection should be.

Here are three questions to ask yourself to figure out how focused you should be on growth:

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  1. How will growth affect your lifestyle?

Most people start their own business because they enjoy the perks associated with being your own manager. Maybe you want flexibility, or freedom, or maybe you can’t find meaning in the work you do for other people’s companies.

In any case, you are more likely to achieve those goals by keeping your business small. A common reason to grow big is to make more money. To better determine if growth is right for your business, ask yourself the question, “Is it inherent to the goals you had when starting the business?” If the answer is no, it’s fine for you to stop growing at some point.

  1. What will you lose in client services if you grow bigger?

As companies scale they usually start to lose the high-touch, family-run feel you get from a small business. Custom solutions work when the company has just a few key clients. But when you take on more clients in order to grow your business, custom solutions are difficult or no longer feasible.

Also, small, successful businesses can say no to bad clients. But if your goal is to grow, you will be more likely to take on those bad clients, which will force you to manage all types of client situations.

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  1. Is your core competency managing growth or is it something else?

It’s your business, and you are the central energy that keeps things going. So the business should benefit from your particular skill set. If you’re great at manufacturing, then keep the business focused on that arena so you can leverage your skills. If you love sales, set yourself up so that the company can handle a steady flow of new sales.

  1. What is your larger purpose? Entrepreneurship is hard. You hear people say all the time, “If I knew how hard it would be to run a business I never would have started one.”

You can’t work this hard without a very good reason. Most people start their own business because they can’t work for someone else. There’s a saying that you can tell if you were meant to be an entrepreneur by how many times you were fired; anyone who can work for someone else would do that, because it’s so much easier.

Once you have your own company, you’ve taken care of the job problem, because you have one. Then you have to ask yourself, what are your other reasons for having a company? What makes you get out of bed in the morning. For some people, they genuinely want to change the world – only big ideas get them excited. These are the people who should always go for more growth, because growth is an intrinsic part of the goal of changing the world.

But there is another thing that gets entrepreneurs out of bed each morning: their team. It’s a huge responsibility to have to make payroll every week. You are responsible for families. Your company enables people to live the life they want. Your employees trust you to personally care about them, and in exchange, they do their best for you. This sort of relationship only exists in small companies. Where people feel their interdependence every day.

If you love the feeling of family, then keep your company small. If you want to change the world, go big. Simple advice, yes. But most of us fall somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. Which brings me to the last piece of advice about growth:

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  1. Know yourself.

According to well-known entrepreneurial author, Andrew Zacharakis, commitment is a big differentiator between successful companies and all the rest. If you can stay focused and keep going through the hardest times then you’re more likely to succeed; a business isn’t over until the owner says it’s over, and there’s a big difference between a committed owner going through a hard time and someone closing up shop.

Zacharakis also says that commitment comes with passion, so you need to know what drives you. This is true for everyone: “Passion is something you have to look for every day of your life. It’s likely to change over time, but finding your passion is good practice.”

The decision for how much to grow is a decision about passion. What are the parts of owning a business that you love? How can you get more of that? Is it by growing or is by holding stead at the size you’ve got? Only you know the answer. Which is one of the many reasons why self-knowledge, more than anything else, is what makes a good business owner.

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