When Bigger Isn’t Better (In Business)
Have you considered the challenges that come from perpetual growth in your company?
I’m a believer in designing the life you want, and then crafting your business to support it. Instead of squeezing your life into the nooks and crannies that your company allows, flip it, and build a company that works well within the framework of a life you choose intentionally.
Even as a card-carrying practitioner of this methodology, I, too, have gotten caught up in the idea that growth is always the answer, or that bigger is always better. When I took a step back, I realized how much I was being fed this by industry leaders and peers alike who are promoting the big fundraising number they hit, the headcount quantities they’ve hired, the number of active locations or markets in which they’ve launched, or the impressive revenue thresholds they’ve surpassed.
When I dug deeper and asked about profitability, number of hours of sleep they got, or how much they could enjoy outside of work, the replies were often less impressive.
I’ve caught myself going down paths towards some of these achievements at different points in my entrepreneurial journey, and at times they’ve been rewarding and exciting, and at others fruitless and exhausting.
I spoke with some of my entrepreneur peers to get their takes on when they’ve learned to question whether ‘bigger is better’ in hopes that it might shed some light for you to decide for yourself as you grow your business:
Growth creates new problems
“You need to know why growth is important. Growth for growth’s sake just creates an endless stream of new problems and will lead to burnout, which is exactly what happened to me. There’s nothing wrong with building a business that creates a lifestyle that you love. In fact, there’s everything right with doing it that way,” shares Todd Emaus of Toddemaus.com.
Customers get ignored
“I live this each day where I see how competing companies that are bigger than us are plagued with operational inefficiencies that are a part of them trying to scale too fast. Customers end up feeling ignored in such scenarios,” says Sohin Shah of InstaLend.
Spread too thin
“When we launched our company, we started pushing on almost every business idea we had, with a big vision of building lots of different companies quickly. We learned the hard way that less can be more. We were spread way too thin and bit off way more than we could chew. By the end of our first year we realized that we needed to focus on the two businesses that were the furthest along,” says Adam Mendler of The Veloz Group.
Requires more resources
“I think it’s quite common in business that as you grow, as we have done over the last year or so, you have to devote more time and resources to supporting and maintaining that growth rather than investing them in the work you were doing in the first place. The more we’ve grown, the further removed I’ve become from doing what it was I truly loved in the first place (researching and writing),” explains David Mikkelson of Snopes.
Haven’t developed enough trust with your customers
“In the tech world, there is an assumption that bigger is better and rapid growth trumps steady growth. However, there is a moment that can come with scaling too fast and you haven’t built enough trust that you could lose not only your authenticity but your users,” explains Damian Bradfield of WeTransfer.
Less personal attention
“Keeping my business focused and nimble gives me the power to choose my projects that align best with my overall brand and mission. It’s important for me to have a personal relationship with my clients and show my authenticity through my work. Being able to work directly with mothers and their newborns creates an unforgettable, precious experience,” elaborates Lola Melani of lolamelani.com.
Reduced customer happiness
“We find that providing an intimate, high-touch experience is crucial to our customer’s happiness and ultimately our success. The two are intrinsically connected. While we do absolutely intend to grow, being one shop with a small dedicated team gives us the freedom to play with product assortment, pricing models, and respond to market demands in a way that a big SKU-warehouses just can’t,” says Yvonne Reidy of Lovers Land.
Becoming a master of nothing
“My last company, Crashlytics, is now installed in over 2.7 billion monthly active devices and the way we got there was by keeping our attention extremely focused. We could have built many other products on the way to creating Crashlytics, but we didn’t. We said no to all the other opportunities because we didn’t want our customers to see as a one-size-fits-all, or a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none,” explains
Wayne Chang of Waynechang.com.