You Do Want To Grow, Don’t You?

Not really… Who says you need to grow to be successful? Children grow, but then they stop growing (physically) when they are “grown up.”

The question was posed by a fellow business owner in the mid 1990’s. Thanks to new government regulations, our business was booming. Our plates were filled, and other consultants were actually asking us to hire them. The good times were here!

But it was obvious that those good times would not last. Eventually, the rush would be over and  business would return to previous levels. Which is exactly what happened a few years later.

Still, it was an opportune time to consider growth, so my business partner and I discussed it. If we grew, what other opportunities should we pursue? Who might we hire? How big should we grow?

But then we asked the more fundamental question — do we even want to do this?

Eventually, we decided NOT to grow. Both of us enjoyed working with clients on their technical problems and opportunities. Neither of us really relished managing others, and letting them have all the technical fun. Which is probably why others wanted us to hire them — they didn’t want to manage either, or to drum up the business themselves.

To get us through the big bulge in business, we subcontracted for a couple of years. This allowed us to stay involved with clients while serving their needs. But even that was less than satisfactory at times. To be blunt, employees don’t always have the same motivation as owners, and clients often prefer working with the principals.

The result — we remained a small boutique consulting firm. Could we have made more money by growing? Perhaps — or perhaps not. But I’m pretty sure it would not have been nearly as much fun for us.

Incidentally, we’re not alone on this issue. Over the years, other colleagues have reached the same conclusion. One even grew his firm to over 40 employees, and then later shrunk it back to a sole practice. More fun, less stress.

On the other hand, if you truly want to grow, go for it. Just make sure growth is what you REALLY want. As the old saying goes — Be careful what you wish for — you might get it.

One final thought — the focus here is on physical growth,  not intellectual growth. Without the latter, you will soon be out of business!

P.S. – What about the business owner who chided us for not growing? Went bankrupt a few years later. Nuff said.

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