Over the last few years, I’ve come in contact with 300-400 business owners, both in my current role and outside of my office. There’s nothing I love more than a passionate business owner; someone who is head-over-heels in love with her business and the service she is providing. Entrepreneurs who take a deeply personal interest in their business, customers, and mission can effect change even through unexceptional businesses.
Recently I’ve been working on projects with a handful of clients who are completely sold-out for their business. They eat, drink, and sleep their business. It’s great to be a part of, and the core businesses thrive under that kind of passionate leadership.
And that’s where the problems start.
Not for everyone, mind you, but for many entrepreneurs, when things are going well it’s a sign they should, in their minds, grow, expand, tear down walls and add new product offerings. The core business, often the original product offerings/services, are thriving, the processes are continually being improved and perfected, the cash-flow works, the margins are solid. “Where’s the thrill?” they ask themselves. “Where is the challenge? Am I left to just manage and maintain a successful business?”
I’m all for growth, expansion, and grabbing a larger share of the market, it’s actually my job to facilitate that growth. But new projects, especially those aimed at growing the business, should never be taken on for the sole purpose of providing a little more spice in the business owner’s life. Getting into a project just to scratch some itchy legs will lead to expedited planning, if any at all, most likely additional funding—whether it be debt or equity financing—and will take focus off the core business.
The goal for any business is to continue to grow. Absolutely. But don’t get ahead of yourself. Sometimes it’s best to not rock the boat. Take a beat, let things take shape. If organic growth is not occurring or presenting itself as an opportunity, don’t force it.
I’ve developed a few questions you can ask yourself when you’re thinking about moving forward with a growth project.
- Is my core business truly strong enough to support itself? Do I have the proper processes in place? Are we cash-flowing properly?
- Why do I want to take on this project? Am I just “eating because I’m bored?”
- Does the project add to the products or services I already offer? Will this be a complement to my current line?
- Can I afford this? Have I run financial projections to see if I can make this work financially? (If you’re looking to do projections, I suggest ProjectionHub. It’s simple to use and built for business owners, not accountants.)
- What’s the opportunity cost? Will I still be able to dedicate the time necessary to continue the success of my current operations?
Growth is great. Growth is necessary. But strong growth comes through the nurturing of a business—the careful planning and cultivating of a strong core that will organically produce opportunities for growth. Don’t sink your ship because you aren’t willing to be bored every once and a while. Embrace the boredom.