By Kirstin Karoub
Growth is defined often as the process of getting larger in size.
But it is also the process of developing and evolving. When it comes to business, there is an implied assumption that in order to succeed, a business must grow, and that usually means more employees, more clients, more revenues – bigger equals better.
But is bigger always better?
When I was a kid, I thought so. As a short kid desperately awaiting my height gain, growth meant more respect, being seen as an equal and establishing power over those smaller than myself. It wasn’t until I was 15 that I hit my current towering stature of 5’ 3” and realized respect, equality, and power must come in other ways.
We aren’t always going to get bigger to be better. Growth can and should refer to a process of evolving, continually broadening our world view, developing greater understanding, acquiring new skills to navigate this world.
In business, growth is most commonly defined by increase in revenue, profits, employees, locations, franchises, brand recognition, and customer engagement.
I recently attended a small business summit where one of the breakout sessions focused on women-owned businesses. The facilitator quoted this statistic: between 2007 and 2017, women-owned business startups grew 114 percent, 2.5 times higher than the national average.
However, despite this astounding stat, and the fact that women-owned businesses make up 40 percent of all privately held firms, women-owned businesses only contribute 8 percent toward employment and 4.3 percent of total private sector annual revenues.
Women-owned businesses enter the market at a rapid clip, but do not grow or contribute at the same rate.
The implication was that women come in droves to the game, but have trouble getting on the playing field, let alone leveling it. There were plenty of reasons given – women don’t have the same access to mentors or funding, and they have to fight harder to overcome cultural perceptions.
We at Your People have a different perspective on this conundrum. As a woman-owned business that is growing in clients and revenues, we are committed to staying small, continuing to work from our homes rather than inhabiting an office, and yet we still believe we can grow in meaningful ways.
With that in mind, what if some business owners are happy where they are because it satisfies their goals, accommodates work-life balance, and allows for pursuits in other areas of interest? Does that mean, like this article suggests, that if they’re not growing in the most common definition of the word, they’re dying?
I think not.
There are businesses that are simply achieving the goals they set all along, providing time, fulfillment, and a different kind of balance that could not come with a higher level of enterprise.
What compels a business owner to expand?
To increase earning power and share wealth with employees. To offer more products and services to benefit and retain clients. To reach new customers, stay ahead of competition, achieve stability and economies of scale, establish oneself as an industry leader opening doors and developing markets.
Many people are fueled by the thrill of the chase. They are driven by increased income, higher status, a larger network. Some are motivated by being a top player, achieving market leader status.
Others are not.
Growth brings increased risk, higher costs of time and money, greater workload and more stress. Growth can lead to a possible drop in quality as work expands and stretches capacity. Growth often leads to a loss of direct control, which challenges quality.
This is where growth doesn’t always advance business for the better.
Staying small affords many benefits like flexibility and agility, the ability to dominate a niche, lower operating costs and more opportunity for balance.
Our firm represents clients running mission-driven businesses and organizations fueled by purpose. We see growth as increasing positive impact on one more person. The fulfillment and meaning found from this kind of growth can both ignite and drive an individual’s passion as well as the mission of the organization.
We believe wholeheartedly that there is a place for everyone.
There is place for the go-getters, networkers, and increasers driven by perpetual upward motion.
There’s a place for those who are happy with a little slice of the pie, doing fulfilling work.
These business owners might be looking for a different kind of profit to fund their lives, make a different kind of impact, control a different kind of share.
If the market will bear it, it’s the best of both worlds.
Kirstin Karoub is Vice President, Operations & Strategy, Your People LLC.