Ten days ago we spent a few nights on holidays in Koh Samui, a trip I won thru our business along with a whole bunch of others from around Oz. I enjoyed the time away, but meeting with other irrigation guys and talking business is always problematic for me, because it usually involves the discussion of strategies for growth and expansion. And my ‘old self’ starts to get discontent. My competitive nature gets poked and stirred as I listen to what my competitors are doing and ponder what I could do to be bigger and more profitable (than them).
The tension is that I don’t want to be a bigger more expansive business. Increased profitability is always a win, but my question is usually ‘at what cost?’
I never set out to start a business like I currently have. It was a hobby and a small income stream to supplement the 3 different Christian leadership roles than I held. However one day my work coaching Baptist youth pastors ended and I needed to fill the time and pay the bills.
So I spent more time in my business. And it grew… It was fun doing things to make it more profitable – and let’s face it – when you are starting out the only way is up. I wasn’t any kind of genius – it just worked. I tinkered for two years doing a day a week of odd retic jobs but with no real concern for growth or expansion. I didn’t need the work and I was just having fun (which incidentally is a great way to kick off a business.)
When we came back from our round Oz trip in 2009 having lost a heap of money in the GFC I shifted focus and got cranking, seeking to earn back the money we had lost. I worked very hard and did what I could to make the business grow – and it did. But there came a time a couple of years back where we had to make a choice – to grow and expand to next level or… well, what else do you do in business?…
While there is part of me that would like to provide employment for people and develop a sustainable and valuable asset, I know that my primary vocation is not to be a successful business person, as good as that may be. My focus is Christian leadership and my business is there to facilitate that – to give me freedom to serve as I am gifted and not have to try and ‘grow a church’ big enough to sustain my income needs.
Last week around the other guys I found myself listening to their progress and it set me dreaming again of expansion, of possibilities and strategies for gradually developing a significant business. It is tempting and it is a possibility – I can see how it could be done… But the cost is still too high.
Maybe one day I will need to rethink the model but for now my focus is still ‘simplicity, autonomy and flexibility’ and whatever funds are generated have to fit within that frame. The choice has been to ‘compact’ the business rather than expand – a lifestyle choice rather than a financial choice. Ironically last year was our most profitable ever and I was pretty disciplined with only working locally.
The competitive urge is still alive and well in me, but these days it is tempered by the knowledge of the cost involved in pursuing that focus. I’m not getting any younger so perhaps one day I will be managing a younger guy or two… or three… But for now I will keep rolling solo, doing the grunt work myself and keeping the weight off in the process.
I imagine a sedentary version of me would be considerably weightier than the active version. So – the choice appears yet again – as it does every so often – to grow and develop or to take a different path. I remember the words of Robert Frost ‘I took the road less travelled by…’ and hopefully that will make all the difference