The paradoxes of successful business growth

Jim Blasingame

One of the greatest professional accomplishments is to start a business and grow it. 

But unlike a species of plant or animal, a business is not genetically preordained as to how big it will get. For a small business, that decision is made by the owners with answers to these three questions:

1.  Do I want my business to keep growing?

2.  How big do I want my business to be?

3.  How fast do I want to get to that size?

There are no right or wrong answers to these questions — it’s your business, you get to decide. But there is a paradoxical dynamic at play here: These answers are influenced by a natural law that it’s difficult for a small business not to grow. Here’s why:

  • Entrepreneurs are hard-wired to create more of the object of their desire.
  • The culture of the marketplace encourages, recognizes and rewards growth.
  • The marketplace is nothing if not competitive, of which the most prominent by-product is growth.

But even though there are no right or wrong answers to whether you should grow, there are wrong reasons. Consequently, you must make sure that when you grow your business it’s because you’ve thought about why and how. Remember, growth for its own sake is organizational suicide.

Here are six articles of faith you must believe to practice the religion of business growth, with each one followed by a tough love question from me.

  • The marketplace is pretty full already. What makes you think you have a realistic opportunity to grow?
  • Growth takes cash. What’s your capitalization strategy to fund your growth plan?
  • The ROI elements of growth are often delayed. If you grow, can your business operationally and financially wait for the payoff?
  • Growth will take you into unfamiliar operational territory. Do you have the staff and systems to blaze that trail without creating a casualty list?

And finally, here are perhaps the two most important growth truths to reconcile: 

  • No one is less interested about whether you grow or not than customers. How do you know if customers will benefit from your growth?
  • Being a business owner should be a source of happiness. Do you know if having a larger business will make you happy?

Another paradox is that for every growth advantage there’s at least one element of growth baggage. Smart CEOs don’t start growth steps without coming to terms with both sides of this paradox.

Write this on a rock...Successful business growth is not genetic or accidental, it’s deliberate.

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