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Whenever I discuss my startup with someone, I get asked how I am going to “scale” my business. My usual response is that I am happy with its current size and don’t plan on expanding. The looks I get after this exchange make it seem like I’ve either badmouthed a universally loved celebrity or confessed to a horrible crime.
Let me give you some background; I run an affiliate marketing business with my husband. We have four employees. We promote online coupons of different e-commerce sites on search engines and receive a commission every time a customer redeems it.
It’s a small gig. It’s relatively simple. And it’s been this way for nearly five years now. Perhaps it’s the last bit that annoys a lot of my peers the most.
Five years is a long time for a startup. I should be looking to expand, go public like some of my competitors, or even more ambitiously — eyeing the cover of the Forbes magazine.
But I want none of these things and I will tell you why.
I like my tiny company
Business owners are obsessed with growth. But not a gradual growth that companies usually experience. They want to SCALE FAST. This sentiment has given birth to an army of influencers with each one promising to have a secret scaling formula through their clickbait articles.
But is it necessary to relentlessly pursue growth? I would argue otherwise. Now, I will not go all philosophical or give you a lecture on minimalism. Instead, I will make a simple argument:
Organizations become much more complex as they scale. Ultimately, you would have to hire more employees, work with freelancers, and partner with other businesses. Some of this would require you to give up personal control.
As someone who has worked in major corporations and dealt with ridiculously complex hierarchies, I would never want my company to transform into something similar. More importantly, I don’t want a “Chief Identity Consultant” walking around my office without knowing what their job is and why I hired this person in the first place.
The little workforce I have performs exceptionally well. I know what each employee brings to the table. This isn’t remotely possible with a big workforce.
I get to help out other businesses
Most entrepreneurs want to be a force for good. We hope to bring about a positive change through our ventures even though the scale of this change might be different.
Admittedly, I am not one of those geniuses that are revolutionizing medicine or creating sustainable energy solutions. But my business model allows me to do something for the community.
As I explained before, I do work in the e-commerce space but don’t sell anything of my own. Instead, my website promotes coupons and promo codes of different online stores. It’s a form of affiliate marketing that has gained significant traction in recent years.
With the current status of my business, I can promote small businesses, particularly those run by women and minorities. We can prioritize these companies and even be lax when it comes to commissions.
Scaling would require us to put money at the forefront and work with industry leaders. In other words, it would suck the soul out of my business.
I get to better rather than bigger
Whenever I explain my nefarious plan of not scaling, one question is constantly thrown my way; “How do you stay motivated?” The answer is simple; I am striving to make my company better and not bigger. There is a difference between the two.
Bigger businesses don’t necessarily provide the best of services. They’re just able to reach more people and able to serve a larger clientele.
What I hope to create is a business that is efficient, innovative, and above all, able to manufacture impactful solutions. These solutions might not reach everyone but that’s beside the point. Getting this right will reflect well on the bottom line as it has for me in the last five years.
If my business grows as a by-product of this then I wouldn’t go out of my way to stop that. However, growth is and will never be the ultimate objective for me.
I make enough money
I know what you’d be thinking; “enough money? ENOUGH MONEY?”THERE’S NO SUCH THING. You’re either in it to kick Jeff Bezos off the top or you can pack your stuff and go home.”
Once again, I would like to provide a different perspective. Money is a great thing. It’s the primary reason we do this business. It pays the bill and lets us buy cereals for our kids.
However, there’s a point at which money becomes an obsession. You start valuing your work through a number and not before long, it’s all about increasing this number at the cost of your health and personal well-being.
My husband and I have a specific income target for each month. Other than the office rent, employee salaries, and our personal expenses, the amount needs to be enough for us to save for the future and take a nice trip to Tahiti every once in a while. There’s no point in working our backsides off for more.
But hey, that’s just my opinion
I will leave this little disclaimer at the end; this is just my opinion. Different entrepreneurs have different motivations. If you’re someone that’s looking to scale then that’s completely fine. I don’t look down on you and wish you nothing but the best.
What I wish to explain is that business owners who choose to stay small are neither lazy nor uninspired. They are simply motivated by things other than growth.
Businesses CAN choose to stay small and there’s nothing wrong with that. So if you’re happy running a small gig; find comfort in knowing that there’s more of us out there.
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