Why I have rejected the common wisdom about how to “grow” a business

November 27, 2023

For most of human history, before the industrial revolution, pretty much everyone was a small business owner. The butcher, the baker, the blacksmith – they were all self-employed and the success of their business depended on the quality of service they provided.

Everyone in the village knew the baker. He did his best to bake good bread because he knew personally the people who were eating it.

Then new technology came along and suddenly it was possible to “scale” businesses way beyond what had been previously possible. So factories started making bread and their owners became millionaires, while the bakers became a cog in someone else’s machine.

More recently, we’ve had another revolution through communications technology. Now it’s possible to scale businesses globally and employ a “virtual” workforce anywhere in the world.

Customers have become numbers. With technology, a business can serve a thousand customers just as easily as one.

But if you’re a customer or a client, do you really want to be “scaled?” Do you really like being treated like a number simply because the business owner is interested in hitting it big?

Of course not. No one likes to be treated like that.

I’ve got to thinking about this recently after taking on new clients who have previously been working with two other large New Zealand-wide web agencies.

Both of these agencies have slick marketing, which I have long admired. I’ve even borrowed some of their ideas.

But the clients who have come to me from those agencies have done so because they were unhappy with the service they received. It’s impersonal and not only that, the quality of the websites they build is very average, at best.

This is the greatest challenge when you try to “scale” a business, as these “successful” agencies have done.

For 10 years people have been telling me I need to do the same. Employ more people, turnover more work. Put systems in place. Then franchise out those systems to others and scale exponentially. Become rich. I read all the books on this subject and for a while I started going down that track. But it didn’t feel right.

So I made a conscious decision to stay small. To provide quality, personal service to a few clients. That suits my personality. It makes me happy and generally results in happy clients.

Some would criticise me for “thinking too small”. Aren’t we supposed to “think big”. Well, yes and no.

We should think big about the things that are really important. For me, I’ve decided that relationships and customer service are important. More important than making millions.

If you become one of my clients, you will enjoy that kind of personal service too.

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