This is an issue faced by most small businesses: pressure toward endless growth.
In a way, this is a good problem to have. Growth is good, and adding on employees because you’re screaming busy is … kind of…the dream. It’s truly miserable to be twiddling your thumbs, wishing you had any ideas about marketing that didn’t take money to implement (money you don’t have because you don’t have customers). That’s a dry season that no one loves.
So what’s the problem with the assumption that you’re always supposed to reach for the stars?
- Sacrifice – If you give in to social pressure to sacrifice quality for either quantity or better profit margins, you’ll need all of your newfound profits to pay off lawyer bills for settlements or lawsuits.
- More – it’s not always better without the support structure. If there’s no team in place to take care of the new flood of business, your name might be mentioned in the headlines due to a flood of angry, disappointed customers.
- Size – bigger is not always better. Depending on what you want for your business, you may not want to grow beyond 5 employees. You may want to downsize to none at all.
- Cross-Purposes – if your customers trust you, that’s wonderful! If they are constantly asking you to do side jobs that aren’t in your area of expertise, this is either a sign that (a) they don’t really know what you do or (b) your referral network needs to be bigger.
- Contentedness – maybe you don’t want to turn into a Success Case, you don’t want to open a storefront….you just want to stay where you’re at, doing your best in your own small corner of the world.
Number 5 (Contentedness) is completely anti-cultural, especially to Americans. What? You’re happy with where you’re at? That means you’re (a) stagnant, (b) unhappy in a weird psychological way, (c) bung-full of fears that you really should get counseling for, or (d) have a poverty mindset rather than an abundance mindset.
It’s really hypocritical for people in the business world to pretend to support business owners’ personal freedom, while acting affronted when someone doesn’t feel like turning their shop into a chain store. “You can do anything you want! Follow your dream!….Oh, you want to stay small? What a loser.”
Here’s a losing definition: pursuing growth by sacrificing everything that made the sacrifice worthwhile. If you lose your beliefs and core people for the sake of the house, then you just purchased a very expensive tomb.
However, it’s also true that growth is exciting, encouraging, and necessary to any business. All growth does not mean that you have to fling yourself on the funeral pyre of fantasy-land thinking, endless ‘investment’ debt, and salaries of bad employees. Sustainable growth is the type that follows the reality of the structure, capability, and purpose of your endeavors.
There are a few ways to pursue sustainable growth.
- Reduce: Regularly engage in spring-cleaning out the ‘clutter’ that inevitably builds up around your business ‘house’. Old technology, grouchy clients, and ineffective employees are all game.
- Expand: Take something you do really well – a plug-and-chug – and stick it into a few new social networking sites. The products or services that you’re good at, that you enjoy, will take less effort to market or provide than anything that feels like a drain in your business. It’s also a way of staying ‘too busy’ to meet your customers side-job requests.
- Focus: Business owners get so used to juggling, they may not realize when it’s time to put down the moving targets and just zoom in on one ball at a time. That’s about the only way to get something done well. Do. One. Job. At. A. Time. Focused effort produces products and services that are beautiful, well-planned, and impressive. Multi-tasked efforts only produce a lot of quantity, and this only works when you’ve already done what you’ve done a million times over.
- Deadline: Extend them up front. Don’t wait until just before the deadline to ask for an extension (I’m guilty of this!). If your client doesn’t want to wait, maybe it’s not the right client for you, or not at the right time. Politely explain that you don’t have the time or resources to do a really good job, so you’re going to pass, unless they can wait for you to do a quality job. You may get honesty points; they may come back later. If not, let someone else have the Hasty Harry/Harriet.
- Just Say No. This covers almost everything. If you don’t rest – if there are no slow points in your day – your brain will get overloaded at some point. Sleeping in works better than any coffee or energy drink in the world!