There’s a big focus on growth when it comes to small businesses. Bigger is better, right?
Not necessarily. Despite everything that tells you to scale! grow! expand! I’m here to tell you that it is perfectly okay for you to keep your small business small. Here’s why.
#1. The Bigger You Get, The Harder Quality is to Control
Let’s say that right now, your business is known for outstanding customer service. That’s because you as the owner personally talk to every customer (that’s how my business is, anyway). But what happens as you grow your business? You get more customers and you expand your staff. Suddenly you don’t have time to interact with every single customer, and others are doing it on your behalf. Things start slipping through the cracks. Orders get messed up. Negative feedback never works its way back to you.
The bigger your company is (and the faster you scale it), the more challenging it becomes to keep your hands on all aspects of your business. Sure, you’re making more money, but at what cost? If you, like me, value providing the absolutely best experience for your customers, you won’t be able to do both.
#2. Staying Small Means You Own Your Time
My work schedule is absolutely perfect the way it is. I get what I need to do done, then I have time to relax with my son or a good book. I’ve had times where I’ve been busier, and I always feel my stress levels rise. Again, making more money is always nice, but I personally value my time over money.
But Susan, you say, if you’re making more money, you can hire other people to help you.
Absolutely true, but then my time is taken up with administrative and managerial tasks. And I prefer writing to those tasks.
#3. Growth Begets Greed
At what point in your growth do you ever say “basta?” At what point are you satisfied with the amount of money you’re making, the number of customers you’re bringing in, and the number of square feet your office is rapidly expanding to? The problem with growth is that it’s easy to get greedy, to want the whole pie.
And while I think aspiration is a fine quality for entrepreneurs, I think staying small grounds you better. It forces you to focus on doing one or a few things well, rather than expanding in too many directions and ultimately failing in most of them.
#4. Being Small Gives You More Creative Control
A small business with an even smaller marketing budget has to be pretty creative in terms of how it connects with customers. But sometimes those results are more impressive than those of a giant corporation with a huge marketing budget, simply because of the level of creativity required to stand out without breaking the bank. Each year on my business’ birthday, I send my clients birthday gifts. It doesn’t cost me much, and it’s always a memorable and anticipated event for clients who have been with me for years. I wouldn’t be able to afford to do that if I tripled my client base.
#5. A Tiny Business is a Family
I really like my blog editor, Sian Phillips, who also edits Tweak Your Biz. She and I often check in on one another personally, and we’re planning to meet up in the next year or so (she’s in Ireland and I’m in the US). We’ve never met in person, but she — and my freelance writers — feel like family. If I had a staff of 20 or 100, I wouldn’t be able to maintain that closeness. I’d be lucky if I could memorize everyone’s name!
For a small business, its selling point is often its people. When someone works with your business, they likely know you or your staff by name. That’s how it is at my favorite Italian coffee shop. Until recently, I knew everyone and had made friends with a few of the staff. But they’ve been growing rapidly, and now there are new faces who don’t yet understand that the coffee shop is more of a friendly place to chat, and that takes away from my experience there.
#6. Not All Businesses Are Created Equal
Just because Joe Schmoe down the street took out a $100,000 loan to expand his business doesn’t mean that’s right for yours. Every business, just like every individual, has different needs, and thrives in different ways. You have your own business and personal goals, and they might not mesh with the idea of rapidly growing into an entirely different entity.
#7. Your Smallness is What People Love
If I had the choice between supporting a tiny local business and a larger franchise, guess which one I’d choose. Yep, the small business wins every time. But there’s often something unappealing about a business that is obvious in its quest to improve its bottom line. It seems to move away from pleasing the customer. As that customer, you can bet I will notice when things change. That’s why I like small businesses where they know me by name. Where they feed my dog treats and give me freebies just because. Try getting that kind of service with a burgeoning company focused only on profit.
#8. You’re Perfect The Way You Are
Recently I was filling out a survey and it asked what phase my business was in. It wasn’t in Startup mode. Not in Growth. But then the next option was Mature, and that just sounded negative. Like my business was past its prime and ready to start crumbling. I suggest we start a new category: the Perfect The Way It Is category. If it ain’t broke, why try to fix what is working perfectly fine? You’ve worked hard to hone your processes and practices, so why not enjoy them now in this golden era with your business?
When you reach the place where you’re confident in your business, when you feel certain of its future and financial potential, I say: change nothing. Keep doing what you’re doing and enjoying every minute of it. I know I am.