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Thinking big? Your small business doesn’t need to

Everyone thinks the premise of retail is the need to generate growth – but what if growth isn’t so important after all? KARYN GREENSTREET explains why thinking big is no guarantee of success.

It’s written in nearly every business book and spoken from the lips of nearly every business guru: achieving growth is the pathway to retail happiness.

More products, more services, more stores, and more revenue.

Bigger is better – right? In fact, the endless push to grow businesses to the next level – whatever that means – may not be the right thing for many of us. There’s no shame in declaring that you want to keep your business small.

This article isn’t about people who remain small because they’re scared to take risks or because they don’t have the skills or the financing to grow larger.

This article is about people who choose to keep their businesses small because it’s what they really want.

Debunking business myths

There’s an unspoken taboo in declaring an intention to keep a business small. In his book, The E-Myth Revisited, Michael Gerber says that those who elect to stay small and work in their businesses have a job, not a business.

This logic seems incorrect. There doesn’t appear to be anything wrong with wanting to stay small and do the everyday work yourself.

Gerber’s principle is that a business should be created to get more out of life, and most self-employed people start their own businesses because they love what they do.

Certainly the work business owners do should allow them to have the lifestyle they want – but people don’t always start businesses to make incredible amounts of money.

If that were the case, why not get a corporate executive job? It would be far less risky!

No, people start businesses to provide the services and products they love and to work in a way that gives them personal fulfilment as well as a creative challenge.

Of course, there’s also the freedom that self-employment provides.

The joy of small

There is a new way of looking at small business that challenges the notion that all growth is desirable.

In his book, Small Giants: Companies That Choose to be Great Instead of Big, Bo Burlingham discusses small business owners who had a choice to increase their business to majestic proportions – yet chose instead to perfect what they had, rather than sell out to the ‘growth’ ideal.

Those who elect to stay small and create a great business are generally more interested in the qualitative aspects of their work than in sales. They want to be great at what they do and offer the best service and products possible.

“People start businesses to provide the services and products they love and to work in a way that gives them personal fulfilment as well as a creative challenge.”

In my opinion, the only way to do this is to remain small. The boutique-business model allows owners to connect intimately with their customers, to listen to their needs and create solutions quickly.

This model gives owners a level of independence and joy that they might never find in larger businesses.

American author and entrepreneur Seth Godin believes small businesses provide untold flexibility.

“Small is the new big because small gives you the flexibility to change the business model,” he says.

“Small means you can tell the truth on your blog. Small means that you will outsource the boring, low-impact stuff like manufacturing and shipping and billing and packing to others while you keep the power because you invent the remarkable.”

Learning to love business

A business starts as a means to an end. Perhaps the aim is to achieve a certain lifestyle or pay the school fees, but there’s no reason a business can’t also be enjoyable.

Those who love gardening aren’t trying to find ways to delegate their gardening work to others. They’re focused on getting their fingers in the dirt and doing it themselves because the very act of working in the garden is enjoyable to them.

Sometimes this means they need a smaller garden that they can more easily manage. They have fewer plants so they can give each one the attention it needs to truly flourish.

In business too, many self-employed people don’t want to be ‘absentee owners’. They don’t want to lose touch with customers or the reasons they work. They don’t want to be corporate-style managers and would rather work with partners who love what they do too.

Those who want to be the owner of a large number of jewellery stores with an army of employees should go for it. There’s nothing stopping them. But those who want to get their hands dirty every day should stay focused and build a business that’s small and great.

Karyn Greenstreet

Contributor • The Success Alliance

Karyn Greenstreet is president of The Success Alliance, specialists in helping to mentor and nurture business mastermind groups. Visit: thesuccessalliance.com

SAMS Group Australia

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