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shutterstock 206225593 1Q. There's often an assumption that growth is almost always good for small businesses. If revenue is at $500 thousand, $1 million would be better. Once you're at $1 million, $2 million is better. Does that assumption hold up? Is growth always good?

A. There is an oft-repeated mantra in business, “Grow or die!” Many people subscribe to it. The problem is―it’s wrong. In conducting research for our book, Let Go to Grow; why some businesses thrive and others fail to reach their potential, we encountered numerous business owners who debunk this myth. They have successfully operated very lucrative businesses for decades, but have made conscious decisions not to grow their enterprises.

One small business owner explained, “My house is paid for, my cars are paid for, my river house is paid for, my boat is paid for, my jet skis are paid for, and the building that houses my business is paid for. I have no need or desire to grow my business.” We continued to push. “Won’t you need to grow your business so that you can sell it and have money for retirement?” He explained that he planned to step out of the day-to-day running of the business and let his son, an employee, take over. His son would pay rent for the building. This would provide enough retirement income. There was no need to grow the business.

The only potential flaw in this plan would be if his son failed to continue to operate the business successfully. When asked what he was doing to prepare his son for this role he explained, “Each year I take a longer vacation.” The comment was humorous, but it was also serious. He was grooming his son by allowing him to assume the leadership role while he was out of the office. He then coached his son regarding how to manage the enterprise. The owner was spending more and more time out of the office to allow his son to gain experience running the company, years before he would have to fly solo. Finally, we agreed. He had no need to grow his business.

We spoke with a concrete contractor who has revenue of about $2 million per annum. He pulls enough cash out of the company each year to make a very nice life for himself and his family. He has time for a wonderful personal life and is able to pursue some hobbies that he loves. He is highly respected in his industry. Because he is honest, trustworthy, reliable, and good at what he does, there is usually more work than he can accept. Even when times are tough, he keeps his crews busy.

He could grow the business significantly if he decided to do so. This would mean buying more equipment, hiring more people, working longer hours, and delegating significant decision-making authority to new managers. The owner has decided not to take that path, at least not right now. All things considered, it’s an incredibly reasonable decision.

During the course of our research, we interviewed many business owners who, like the ones described above, have made a conscious decision not to expand their companies any further. Growing their businesses is simply not something they wish to do and they don’t have to. Growth can certainly mean making more money. However, it can also bring with it increased risk, longer hours and more stress. In our view, it is quite reasonable for a business owner, who his happy with his/her current economic situation to forsake growth in favor of a more relaxed lifestyle. No, growth is not always necessary or good.

“I HIGHLY recommend Polly and Doug. They have wonderful insight to help small business owners prioritize and identify strategies for growth and improvement. Wish I had met them 20 years ago!”

Sharon MaderePresident / Premier Pet Products

My team and I have had the privilege of working with Polly on our business. Polly's keen business insight and savvy is something special. She was honest, direct, and tactful about her observations and recommendations for our team and how to grow our business. It was a pleasure having her help us and I would tell anyone that’s serious about growing their business to call Polly. She’s great!

John O’Reilly, Broker/OwnerBase Camp Realty

“Doug and Polly, I want to thank both of you! The past few months have been enlightening and overwhelming all at the same time. Your guidance, direction, wealth of knowledge, and wisdom have exceeded all my expectations. No words could ever completely describe just how amazing of a “dynamic duo” you two really are!”

Dawn Beninghove, RN, CCM, CRP, PNChief Executive Officer / Companion Extraordinaire Nursing Network, Inc.

“Doug White took on an unfocused operation (in the financial services sector) and created an efficient, centralized system dedicated to excellence. He did this not by driving change from the top down, but by helping the entire team see how their part of the process could be improved. Doug then mentored us toward effecting the changes ourselves. He taught us all how to bring our “A game,” and how to take ownership and pride in what we do.”

Donna LevinVice President of Operations / care.com

"I have had the privilege of working with Polly White for several years on a variety of projects. She consistently provides clear direction on how to resolve a wide range of employment-related issues. I look forward to my continued relationship with Polly."

Elizabeth WilkinsBusiness Manager / Manorhouse Management, Inc.

I have known Polly for more than ten years. As an HR Manager, I have utilized Polly’s training expertise at my former company and with my current company. Polly exceled at assessing the needs of our management teams and tailoring training programs that resulted in visible positive change. I also know I can count on Polly as a resource on any HR topic or bounce ideas off of her when I need a second opinion. Polly has been a mentor to me and I have always appreciated her willingness to listen and offer valuable advice and expertise.

Leigh McCullar, HR Business PartnerUniversity of Richmond

I am truly impressed with the abilities of Doug and Polly White, thank you! What a difference your expertise have made in helping Associates grow in their careers. Your dedication to excellence through empowering the individual and strengthening the Company is enlightening. I do and will continue to recommend Whitestone Partners to the Executive Market.

Suzanne Pittman, MEd VAMAC, Inc.
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