How big would you like your business to be next year? How about three years from now? Your answer, especially if you live near Silicon Valley where venture capital is so prevalent, is probably "big" and "fast."
It's very easy to celebrate those kinds of companies. You read lots of articles about tech giants. You celebrate IPOs. You high-five friends when they receive venture capital funding. You watch Shark Tank and honor those who receive funding.
The winners of this game often become society's business icons--and we rarely hear about the failures. Not many people care about those who run out of steam on the venture capital treadmill and don't get the next round.
If that's the "hare" approach to entrepreneurship, you don't often hear about the "tortoise" approach--but it exists. And it's an equally valid strategy. Sometimes, depending on the nature of your startup, it might even be a stronger path.
How can you tell? The answer isn't always clear. How quickly you want to grow your business should be a dilemma that you struggle with and think through very carefully.
I call this the Growth Dilemma, and I'll be onstage talking all about it on Thursday afternoon at Inc.'s Fast Growth Tour event in San Francisco. Here's a sneak peek: Take this moment, right now, to pause and decide how you want to run the race.
Growing too big, too quickly comes with a lot of risks. If the venture capital treadmill doesn't get you, you could drown in debt payments. Financing might not be the issue, but unsatisfied and angry customers could destroy you because of quality or customer service issues. I receive countless calls from desperate business owners who invested or borrowed too much, too quickly. They're now struggling to survive.
The converse problem, of course, is that there's considerable danger in moving too slowly. You can easily get stuck in analysis paralysis, in which case you would not be comfortable with taking any risk at all. If you follow this path, your competition will pass you by.
You need to find a rhythm you are comfortable with. You need to make your choices thoughtfully and carefully.
Remember, the tortoise often wins the race.