It’s Okay to Think Small

Posted by on Apr 26 2008

In nearly every business book I read and from the lips of nearly every business guru I listen to is the premise that you have to grow your business. Grow, grow, grow — think big — and you’ll feel successful. More products, more services, more revenue — and you’ll be happy. Bigger is better, right?

Here’s a secret that I’m going to start shouting from the rooftops: there’s no shame in declaring that you want to keep your business small. This push for growing our business to the next level (whatever that means) might not be the right thing for many of us.

I’m not talking about people who remain small because they’re scared, or because they don’t have the skills or financing to grow big. I’m talking about the people who choose to keep their business small because, after careful analysis, it’s what they really want. There’s an unspoken taboo about saying, “I want my business to remain small,” and I want to halt that taboo.

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6 comments for now

6 Responses to “It’s Okay to Think Small”

  1. dgunter

    Hi Karen–

    Amen, sister! I’ve thought this for a long time, and was beginning to think I was crazy for thinking so small, no pun intended.

    I see colleagues and mentors with multi-million dollar businesses, but they seem so wrapped up in managing their “stuff” (large house, expensive car, numerous vacations) and their “staff” (multiple Virtual Assistants, a personal chef, a personal assistant, a housekeeper, etc.) that it exhausts me to read about it.

    In my “former” life when I worked in college student housing, I managed 75 part-time and FT employees (not all directly). I swore in my business that I never wanted to do anything like that again.

    I’ve kept my promise thus far (only 1 VA and 1 housekeeper who comes in 2x/month) and that’s quite enough for me, at the moment.

    Donna Gunter, Founder
    Free report: Turbocharge Your Online Marketing Toolkit

    28 Apr 2008 at 2:48 pm

  2. Joan Kosmachuk

    You are a breath of fresh air. I have just made a decision to choose substance for my Professional Organizing business and quality over quantity in keeping with my personal decision to be a woman of substance and depth. I was wondering who were the models for me and your reference to the book “Small Giants” is an answer to prayer. Thanks for saying something that needed to be said and showing the alternative to the message that the only way to have a viable business is to have a BIG business.
    Joan Kosmachuk, Professional Organizer and Personal Life Coach,

    28 Apr 2008 at 6:05 pm

  3. Karyn Greenstreet

    I have nothing against a multi-million dollar lifestyle, if that’s what people really, really want. But for many of us, that’s not appealing.

    My vision for the rest of this year is to figure out how to make my business GREAT, not just bigger. That’s so much more appealing to me than trying to figure out how to increase revenue to some outlandish height. And I suspect that in creating a Great Business, income increases anyway. 🙂


    29 Apr 2008 at 1:54 pm

  4. Megan McKenzie

    Hi Karen –

    Great concepts. I think the push to grow “bigger” with more employees, more space and more responsibility is a traditional model of business which no longer serves many small business owners. Women in particular start their businesses to engage in something about which they have passion, and that also permits them to have the time and space to integrate personal lifestyle preferences.

    For myself, I have often felt inhabited with multiple personalities, one which was pushing me forward to “grow, grow, grow” and another that was urging patience and waiting to see what felt the best. I have chosen to remain rather small in the traditional sense – only 3-4 staff people. What I have also chosen, as I passionately love the work I do with my client is to (a) off load all of the things I don’t do well “the doesn’t serve me well concept” and (b) look for ways to broaden the venues within which I can do my work through speaking and writing.

    While I have great respect for the work done by Gerber (and others), I do believe that the marriage between working “in” and working “on” leads to excellence. No owner of a service business can disconnect from all aspects of their business. The secret is to focus on the things we are passionate about, while delegating those things that we have neither passion nor skill.

    Thank you for bringing this interesting topic to the forefront… is an important one for all of us to contemplate as we embrace the “rightness” of our own individual models.

    Megan McKenzie
    A Virtual Certainty

    I always ask my executive coaching clients “What is the vision you hold for your life” and “How can your business serve and support that vision”. After the initial reaction of anxiety and disbelief, as the answers arise so does

    01 May 2008 at 3:57 pm

  5. Stacey

    Thank you for writing this. For the past six months, I’ve been investigating ways to expand my business but have never felt quite right about it. I realized after reading this that I was doing it because I felt it was what others expected me to do…not because it is what I want to do. It seems there is so much pressure out there to be the next big thing. I’d rather stay smaller and stay involved on a daily basis. Bigger is not always better.

    12 May 2008 at 9:22 pm

  6. Love this take on things. As I have worked with entrepreneurs over the years I find that nothing substitutes for the feeling that it’s “right”. For an entrepreneur to be really successful the size, scope and philosophy of the business has to be right. I can’t tell you how many sad stories I’ve seen around too much growth before readiness, wrongheaded thinking and advice on what you “should do”. Nice work.

    04 Aug 2009 at 4:41 pm

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