When business owners start their business, there are a few recurring themes. Most people start a business to gain freedom from being “in a job” – they’ve got a great idea, they’re enthusiastic, optimistic – and in pursuit of their business dream.
And they want “business growth”. As business owners, we’re always told we have to grow. Your bank manager says you have to grow, your business coach or advisor says you’ve got to grow- everybody says you’ve got to grow. That’s what you do when you’re in business – isn’t it? “Business Growth” is a bit like “Motherhood” – not to be questioned.
But is this always the right thing to do? Is business growth always the right objective?
Two of my business mentors, Daniel Priestley and Glen Carlson of Key Person of Influence, use this graph of the Business Journey. The concept isn’t new, but I just really like the way they have presented it.
In the beginning, you’re in the Startup phase. There’s probably just you, or you and your partner, and if things are going according to plan, there’s work enough to earn a good income. Then, you grow a bit, take on some more clients, employ some staff …
And suddenly you’re in the Struggle Zone. What happens in the Struggle Zone? You’ve got no time, you’re stressed, you feel burnt out, you’ve got no time for your family, money seems to be tighter than it was even way back at the beginning of your journey.
If things go well, and you negotiate this Struggle Zone, your business will pop out and become what can be called a Lifestyle Businesses. In this zone, you’ve got some liquidity, you’re turning over a few million dollars, you can go for a holiday, you’ve got some team members who can do things while you’re away …
Unfortunately, 70% of businesses will never get out of the Struggle Zone, and only 20% will make it through to being a Lifestyle Business.
I contend that your sole, overriding goal as a business owner is to get out of that Struggle Zone – and for some, it is a perfectly legitimate business decision to stay small – back in the Startup Zone.
That doesn’t mean that your business doesn’t mature, and stays in the chaotic state that typifies a lot of startups forever. It merely means that you take a conscious decision to stay small. And I know plenty of small businesses and solo-preneurs turning over significant amounts of money and doing very well.
So, you don’t need to feel guilty because you don’t aspire to be the next Google or Apple. “Business Growth” is a bit of an elephant in the room. Now that you’ve identified the elephant, ask it to leave, and take a rational decision on what YOU want your business to look like.
What do YOU want your business to look like?
If your choice is to pursue the path of creating a Lifestyle Business – or progress right through to being a large corporation listed on the Stock Exchange – that’s great. Your job now is to get out of the Struggle Zone and into the Lifestyle Business area as fast as possible.
This is exactly why I have created the Small Company, Big Business Program. Time and time again, I’ve seen a small business take the leap needed to get out of the Struggle Zone by winning one, first, contract with a large organisation. Winning that one, initial job gives you the credibility you need to bid on the next, bigger contract. And so it builds – but that one, first contract is the spark.
But to win that first piece of work, your organisation and your mindset have to change. Big companies, Government, and even large Not For Profit organisations are different. They think differently, and they have different requirements. And the one, main difference about them is that they hate risk in their supply chains. Once you become a supplier to a big organisation, you are a part – a link – in their “Supply Chain”. And we all know what happens when a link in a chain breaks.
The Business Journey is a valuable way of looking at your company. You have the freedom to choose what you want your business to look like by confronting the “business growth” elephant in the room.
But whatever decision you make, staying in the Struggle Zone isn’t an option.