"How Big Should I Aim to Grow My Business?"

When anyone is considering doing anything important and potentially life changing in their lives it always pays to think hard, do as much research and gather as much information as you can, and also to speak to as many people as possible. 

It is often then a good idea to draw up a simple balance sheet of all the pluses down one side of the paper and all the minuses down the other side. This can help you consider things from every angle and see in black and white what the risks are, and what the benefits might be.

But go to any startup networking event and it is very easy to overhear a conversation between people discussing what size is best to grow their business to. But different people want different things and have different expectations. Some are looking purely for a lifestyle business built around their family and other commitments, and their lifestyle choices, whilst others are really plotting world domination as soon as possible and look to scale as soon as they can.

Perhaps the best insight into this comes from The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship that was conducted for the UK government in 2019. Not only did this analyse many other major studies and pull the conclusions together but it also added detailed new research. Whilst the main focus of the report was female founders and women in business it also looked in depth at issues surrounding scaling a business.

Statistically it seems, 11.2% of men aged between 18 and 64 years old establish some form of business whilst this figure is only 5.6% of women. So much for starting a business but what about the question of how big should the business grow to? The same research showed that only 2.4% of men grew a business that scaled up to have a turnover of more than £1m whilst this number was only 0.5% of women. There are many reasons why women are so far behind on both starting a business and scaling it and I will write about this in much more detail sometime soon.

Crucially, what all the detailed formal research showed was that not everyone wants to grow a massive business and many more operate in sectors where it is very difficult to scale a business to any significant size. We must also not forget that many do not have the direct skills or the people around them to scale properly even if they wanted to.

So the simple answer to the question ‘how big should I aim to grow my business?’ is as big as you want to. But if you do wish to scale then it is important to get all the elements in place that I have written about so often, namely: a great product or service that offers something different; good co-founders and/or senior staff; great sales and marketing initiatives; good systems and procedures; an experienced Advisory Board; good customer service; well reasoned and costed expansion plans; and so much more.  But from that list it can easily be seen that scaling a business to size is much more of a challenge and not for everyone as it will need more time and effort, as well as risk, than running a smaller lifestyle business.

All things considered, the next time that I overhear the question ‘how big should I aim to grow my business?’ I very much hope that the question is subtly but fundamentally different and the question overheard in startups will become ‘how big do I want to grow my business?’. Whatever your decision, just make sure that you take all the right steps to maximise your chances of success of growing your business how you want it to be.