The entrepreneurial community (Inc.com very much included) loves a story of tremendous growth. We hail the founder who built a giant business in record time, celebrate the quick and lucrative exit, and offer each other tips on how to get more business, bigger clients, new market opportunities.
And that's as it should be. Ambitious entrepreneurs looking to build world-changing businesses or massive bank accounts should get the applause and advice they need to tackle such audacious tasks. But let's remember, growth isn't for everyone.
That's the message of a fascinating recent post by entrepreneur Mike Ellis on The Pastry Box Project. The founder of a web strategy agency, Ellis uses his slot on the daily post site to offer encouragement to a group that perhaps earns less plaudits from the press — those that simply want to coast.
No, you're not a slacker.
In our culture, it's a position that doesn't often get the respect it deserves, Ellis feels. “Our peers, friends, government... they emit a constant, never-ending background hum that growth is a good thing. If you're not earning more this year than last, if your job isn't bigger, more responsible, more important--well, then you're failing,” he writes. “Choosing a path which enables you to coast, to find a balance, to just stay at the same level? Slacker.”
This usually unstated but powerful assumption that striving for the next greatest thing is the obvious way to go can leave those with other priorities feeling like there is something wrong with them or their businesses. Ellis wants to push back against this tyranny of growth and comfort those who are content with what they currently have, thank you very much. It's a group that includes Ellis himself.
“As my company enters its fifth year of trading I feel this pressure to grow perhaps even more keenly than those who are employed by someone else. Almost everything is urging us to scale up--and I'm fascinated by this because it's absolutely not something we are aiming for; it's just the natural offshoot of an environment in which growth is expected,” he explains.
Instead of looking to work more or grow his business, Ellis says he's aiming to “hang out with my wonderful kids before they reach an age when they're off all the time doing their own thing. I want to go surfing, write music, run, chill out with a cider, look at the sea.” Working longer hours and having the stressful responsibility of more staff are not on his personal agenda. But just maintaining the status quo isn't easy. "It requires active effort to maintain--to coast--rather than grow," he asserts.
How to get comfortable with coasting
If, like Ellis, you're aiming to hold steady reather than grow but feel a persistent cultural pressure to expand your business (or your responsibilities, or your hours), the post offers three pieces of advice:
- Don't be afraid to say no. “It is strangely empowering,” writes Ellis, who suggests you “find a friend with a similar mindset and share your ‘I said no!’ stories with each other. It helps, and will bolster your confidence hugely.”
- Be picky. Assuming your business is established and thriving, you don't have to work with everyone who wants to work with you.
- Remember why you're here. “This is the most important thing of all,” according to Ellis. “Just step away, regularly – and consider what you’re doing and why.”
Do you feel pressure to grow even if you're not sure that's what you want?