I was having dinner the other night with a friend who runs a successful IT business specialising in online marketing. His business is growing and expanding and sounds like its going very well.
I was discussing some ideas with him in relation to my own business and some opportunities for growth. He quickly told me that I needed to ‘focus on policies and procedures’ if I was to develop a growing business. That made pretty good sense and I guessed he was speaking from his own experience. He knows what he’s doing so I pricked up my ears, but as I was listening I was experiencing an internal dissonance.
The thing is I am not sure that I actually do want to grow it beyond its current scope. And as I was discussing this and reflecting on why I became aware that (as with any project), ‘philosophy’ must always precede policies and procedures. Currently my philosophy is to keep it simple, make sure I run it and it doesn’t run me and to minimise any need for infrastructure. I want the business to serve me and I don’t want to be at its beck and call.
In its current form we generate an excellent return on the time we invest and my guess is that to make it worth the effort we would need to expand significantly – an exercise that would involve a fair amount of $$ in marketing and insurances and processes. We would then enter a different market and would need to compete in a different way. We would need to be prepared to work very hard for a while to get the business into a new zone and that is not a price I am willing (or able) to pay. I see people flogging themselves and confessing ‘we can’t work at this pace for long’. No doubt it has its pay-offs, but that is where philosophy is critical. I/we don’t value the pay off enough for the pain now. In fact I imagine a few years absorbed in running a business could be quite detrimental to the lifestyle we have been able to develop.
So far the growth has been slow, organic and sustainable over the 3 years I have been in operation. What started as virtually a hobby is now an integral part of our life. My kids think I am a retic bloke as much as they think I am a church leader and I’m ok with that.
It is now at a point where the question of ‘what next?’ is a valid one, but if the answer is that we simply keep going as we are, then that’s a good answer – because its the answer we have chosen. If at some point I feel like I want to take up the challenge of growth or franchising then I imagine I would do some serious work exploring it, because the cost would be high.
For now the choice of philosophy – small, simple, sustainable – allows us to live well and enjoy a life not consumed by work. I’ve been a workaholic in the past and its not a place I ever want to live again.