If your main goal as a business owner is not to get bigger, then what is it?
Everything around you may be pushing you in the direction of growth… the media, your customers, suppliers. There’s a general expectation in the business community—growth at all costs. When deciding whether growth is the main goal for your small business or not, our bigger-is-better culture tells us to seize every opportunity.
A lot of the clients in my business coaching practice struggle with this. As they start to grow, they ask themselves ‘how do I grow?’ and even, ‘do I really want to grow?’
You have a choice when deciding whether growth is the main goal for your small business
Your BHAG doesn’t literally have to be big. Increasingly, we’re seeing more and more small business owners decide to stay small and be really, really good at what they do. When deciding whether growth is the main goal for your small business, your BHAG, your big hairy audacious goal, could actually be your SHAG—your small, just-as-hairy, just-as-audacious goal.
Why would any business owner not want to grow the business?
Growth is a necessary goal but if you choose it as your main goal, it can mean spending time on activities that you may not enjoy, like increased travel, running multiple locations, managing managers vs being intimately engaged with individual employees. Enormous growth can move you further from the work of the business.
Getting bigger can bring up issues you may not want to tackle. If you’re going to grow rapidly, you’ll need cash beyond your banking arrangement. To get cash, you’ll end up giving up parts of your business. If you add outside investors it can add layers of complexity and worse, your business may lose the very soul that spurred its growth to start with.
What’s the alternative to growth as the main goal?
One of my manufacturing clients is thinking of adding another location but he’s not sure that’s what he wants to do. His main concern–he’s got a lot of young people and worries that if the business stops growing, it’ll limit their opportunities.
With the media onslaught against business and corporate America, it’s hard to believe there really are business owners who truly care about their employees. However, I can say that employee welfare is at the top of the priority list of every client I have. In fact, for some of those business owners, it’s the #1 reason they’re in business.
At a recent business planning workshop, toward the end of the visioning discussion, one of my construction company clients stood up and said, “After months of working on it, I finally figured out my Why… why I’m in business. I want to create a company that people say they’re proud to work for.”
These business owners prefer something more intimate, more local, more focused on the people—employees, customers, and the community. Bo Burlingame gives these companies a name in his book titled the same—Small Giants, a good read. Small Giants, he says, define success not only by their bottom line, but by “their contributions to community, dedication to great customer service, and the creation and preservation of workplace cultures of excellence.”
If you’re deciding whether growth is the main goal for your small business or not, if you think being the best vs being big is right for your business, the Small Giants Community outlines these 6 ways to do it:
- Create a clear vision for your company – if you’re having trouble articulating your vision, borrow ZingTrain’s “Hot Pen” technique. Pick up a pen and start writing. For 15 minutes, write every passion, hope, and belief with no edits or rewrites, non-stop. You’ll be surprised by the gems that come out. Then, engage your company leaders in refining and carrying out your vision, mission, values, and why.
- Grow roots in your community – some ideas: host a volunteer day, integrate company-wide community events into your half-day meetings, offer your work and meeting space to a non-profit, host a school supply or canned food drive, sponsor a local music production or sports team, adopt a highway. Get ideas from your employees and give them the time to volunteer.
- Develop close personal ties with customers and suppliers – make every interaction an experience. Connect with customers emotionally and develop a trusting partnership with suppliers where you’re helping one another to move both companies forward.
- Put employees first – before profit and customers. Care for them in the totality of their lives. Hire for culture, not just skills and give employees a stake in the game. Find out what their goals are and invest in helping them get there.
- Cultivate passionate leaders – You want people who can align with goals and then you want to give them the autonomy to cultivate a purpose in your organization: provide good training, keep communications open, and search out and develop the next generation of leaders.
- Grow your cash by protecting your profit – engage your company leaders and your mentors in implementing a vetted business model that institutionalizes all the above. It’s important to insure you have the practices and processes in place to grow with integrity and sustainability. Once you have a sound business strategy, insure employees are on the same page with open-book management (arming employees with knowledge about the financials) and a pay structure that reflects your values.
If you’re faced with deciding whether growth is the main goal for your business and you decide that yes, it is, these 6 steps are still the right steps to implement.
No matter what you decide the main goal is for your small business, if it’s the right goal, an inspired goal, one that makes sense for you and your team, growth will happen organically, as a by-product.