You don’t have to build a scalable startup.
I was interviewed about this recently by Inc.com. About the divide between the current trend towards scalable tech businesses versus other approaches. It got a few wheels turning, and I wanted to go a little more in depth.
There’s a lot of pressure put on young entrepreneurs. It’s the pressure to only build scalable startups, rather than focusing their efforts on any other type of business. You can see this almost everywhere. If you’re not building high growth software or platforms, you’re seen as wasting your time.
It’s snobbish. And it’s dangerous. It relies on the idea that there are businesses that are inherently better than others. And they’re only the businesses that have room to become $100,000,000 companies.
For some people, going scalable is the right path. They’ll be happy. They’ll achieve incredible things. But their path isn’t the only viable path. Mark Suster talks about this in his piece “What Should You Do with Your Crappy Little Services Business?”
There are always going to be entrepreneurs who are better suited to building a web design firm, a clothing label or a consulting business than a software platform. That’s common sense.
There are only 3 things to consider before starting a business.
If you’re looking to start a business, there are really only three concerns that you have to think about. Only three.
- Will I make money?
- Will I be proud of what I’ve built?
- Will I enjoy the work?
I cannot stress enough the important of those three points. They sum up the only three reasons to get into a business in the first place. You want to turn a profit, you want to build an asset you’re proud of, and you want to enjoy yourself.
It’s really that straight-forward. There’s not a whole lot more that you need to consider before you take the leap.
The right business to build is the one you want to build.
I know an entrepreneur who is building an incredible service-based startup. They work in the professional services sector, and they are turning over huge profits, well beyond their overheads. He’s a sole founder, and a successful one. We’re talking millions in profit with no shareholders to worry about.
We talked over a few drinks recently, and the topic of scalable businesses came up. He told me that when he first started, he used to be hugely concerned about the fact that the only way to scale his business was by hiring staff and establishing satellite offices.
But he’d slowly realized that he loved his business. He loved what they were selling and the clients they were reaching. There was no point in trying to chase a growth factor of X, because he already had sustainable growth in his current model. And he was enjoying his business.
It would be insane to suggest that a startup of a similar size that was attempting to raise investment and build towards hyper-growth is somehow better than his business. Sure, it might have a higher valuation, and its founders might end up a lot richer. But it’s not inherently better.
The right business to build isn’t the one everyone else wants. It’s the one you want. It’s the one that you can see yourself still building in the next 10–15 years. It’s the one that you can put your blood, sweat, tears and time into when anyone else would have walked away. It’s the one that’s calling to you.
It’s true that many VC firms will not want to invest in a business that has no room to scale. They have good reasons; they need to be able to receive huge returns in order to justify rolling the dice. This is an unarguable fact.
It is does not mean you shouldn’t start a business of that nature. Bear in mind, a VC firm isn’t a scalable business either — so you’re in good company.
Jon Westenberg has appeared and published in Business Insider, Inc.com, TIME and dozens of other publications, talking about startup entrepreneurship, writing and innovation. Jon has helped hundreds of businesses worldwide grow their audience and take control of their future. Jon is an investor, an entrepreneur and a digital publisher. He is the founder of Creatomic, a globally recognized communications firm.