The default expectation in business is "growth is good." Magazine covers are littered with unicorn companies that have raised unprecedented amounts of capital and are acquiring customers at astonishing speeds. However, if you want to build a business around your life and happiness, growth might be the least viable option.
For creative professionals, lifestyle entrepreneurs, freelancers, and those committed to making a difference and enjoying what we do, our collective obsession with growth has distracted us from what really matters: sustainable, meaningful work and profit.
In his new book, Company of One, Paul Jarvis explains why hyper-focusing on growth can be a destructive approach to business (and your wellbeing). Here are 5 reasons why you should keep your business small:
1. Growth Creates Redundancies and Unnecessary Complexities
By staying small and nimble, you can avoid the perils of bureaucracy and retain control over your company. When traditional large companies have a problem, they have to hire more people and build complex infrastructures to support more employees, red tape, and research. And thanks to demands from investors, board members, and legal departments, growth makes it increasingly difficult to get simple things done efficiently.
2. Smaller Lasts Longer
If you care about greater sustainability over the long term, you want a small business that grows slowly. The quicker you grow, the less you're able to successfully "move fast and break things." Smaller companies are able to pivot to withstand a rough economic climate because they can focus their attention exclusively on creating results, generating revenue, and creating happy customers.
3. You Can Be More Selective With Your Customers and Projects
When you choose to stay small, you have more freedom and flexibility over your work. You can be selective about the type of customers you work with and the projects you take on because you aren't encumbered by expectations and overhead. You're also free to shift your focus as you, yourself, grow and evolve as an owner or creative professional.
4. Enjoy More Time With Friends And Family
It's the famous "Mexican Fisherman" parable. You work hard and painfully for 30+ years, losing sight of what actually matters, only to end up right back where you started. A company of one offers freedom and flexibility of lifestyle that a larger growth-oriented company cannot. For many of us, the purpose of going into business was to have control over our time and income.
When you define your own success metrics and create your business around those things instead of getting distracted with quarterly reporting and short-term results, you create a business and life that make you happy.
5. Grow Revenue Without Having to Also Grow The Trappings That Come With It
A company of one can use existing technology solutions and isn't burdened by cumbersome overhead or expenses. By operating as a lean business you can ensure your business model works first, instead of accepting infusions of cash to grow your customer base, without first determining if your idea has any real demand (aka: is profitable). Jarvis recommends focusing on MVPr or "Minimum Viable Profit." MVPr is the most important determinant of the sustainability of your company of one (see Chapter 10, company of one).
You don't have to be anti-growth
You simply need to know how to figure out when it makes sense to grow and when it doesn't, for you personally. Jarvis is a champion for creating a business around what matters to you, fighting for meaningful work, finding fulfillment, and caring about the quality of your work and the outcomes of your customers.
By insisting that you make your business better, Jarvis is pioneering the future of business and work - challenging us to do the same.