Is Growth a Dilemma?

Holiday seasons are a time for enjoying family and reflection.  And this year, for me at least, I am thinking a lot about my upcoming book, The Growth Dilemma.

How big would you like your business to be next year or three years from now?  For most entrepreneurs, the initial gut instinct is “as big as possible,” or “much bigger then we are today.”


In our culture, we celebrate “big,” and we encourage “fast.”  We read lots of articles about tech giants.  We celebrate IPO’s.  We high five friends when they receive venture capital funding off a napkin. celebrates the 5000 fastest-growing private companies every year, and entrepreneurs are proud to be on the list.


So is “big and fast” the best route for every entrepreneur.   The answer is not always clear.  How quickly you want to grow your business should be a dilemma that you struggle with and think through very carefully.


We read about the successes of the “big and fast” strategy, and the winners of this game often become the business icons of our society.  But rarely do we hear about the failures.  Not many people write about running out of steam on the venture capital treadmill, and not being able to get “the next round.”  People don’t like to tell the stories of the “failures” of the “big and fast” culture that we celebrate.


This is why you have to think long and hard about how you want to run your race.


Too big, too quickly comes with a lot of risks.  If the venture capital treadmill doesn’t get you, you could drown in debt payments.  Financing might not be the issue, but unsatisfied and angry customers could destroy you due to quality or customer service issues.


I recently heard a story of a budding franchisor who passed away of a heart attack because of the stress of buying too many units too soon.  He didn’t even get one open.  In our business, we receive countless calls from desperate business owners who invested too much, too quickly and are now struggling to survive.


I am not suggesting that you sit on your hands and don’t take any risks or place any bets.  To the contrary.  If you move too slowly or get stuck in complete “analysis paralysis,” your competition will pass you by.


You need to find a rhythm that you are comfortable with.  You need to make your choices thoughtfully are carefully, but not based on wanting to be the next Facebook or Twitter.


That’s why I think The Growth Dilemma is such an important book.  It doesn’t give you the answers, but I hope it will guide you through the right questions to find your comfort zone and move your needle.

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Paul Rosen