Growth for growth’s sake.

There’s a word for that.


An abnormal growth of cells which tend to proliferate in an uncontrolled way. It’s the uncontrolled aspect that is dangerous.

Who says we need growth?

Conventional wisdom (always suspect) suggests that we must always strive for growth. But how can we keep in control in a growth phase, and what happens if growth is out of control? Will it turn into cancer?  When is it enough, so you can have a life-work balance? Work is a part of life, but it is usually, and inaccurately described as work-life balance. It may be what we say, but it’s not what we mean, or want.

Better first, bigger later

We prefer a different measure – making the business better. Growth may be a result, but it is not the only or even the best measure. Just using growth removes the possibility of a more holistic view of the business and its stakeholders.

One size doesn’t fit all

We must also not forget that businesses are organisms just like many others. What size is best for your business? It may be that as the business grows, it loses more than it gains and becomes more at risk of disease or attack. Should it be small and agile, or large with economies of scale and distribution. What sort of animal is it and what  could it be?  Avoid turning your business into the equivalent of a big fat mouse – there aren’t any in nature for a reason.

Cost cutting is too simplistic

Similarly, we don’t like cost cutting. It’s internal and so easy to do, but a simplistic view of betterment. Whilst a review of costs and operations should take place, it can only be realistically done once, and that by itself is only a short-term fix. It does not address the reason why the business is unprofitable.

Cost cutting also tends to be done when some critical point is reached and needs a top down method. When you have been trying to imbue a more reflective, open and inclusive culture across the organisation, a sudden return to command and control loses any credibility you may have achieved. Once the danger is passed, no-one will believe you anymore if and when you change back again to an open culture.

Better for whom?

We prefer better rather than bigger. That means we have to ask “better for whom?” And what metrics are relevant – just sales and profits? Or should we add evaluations of people’s experiences or other considerations. That implies knowing what personal objectives those people have, be they colleagues (we don’t call them employees), shareholders, customers, suppliers, or a wider community, and how these interact with the business. Every small business operates in an ecosystem of these people and recognises that.

We have found that engaging personal objectives makes for a far more focussed response to betterment. Just getting business owners engaged enables them to reflect on what their colleagues might be thinking in terms of their own objectives and that produces an internal dialogue.  People start thinking of their colleagues more as friends than strangers.  Usually some growth results, to a level that the business can comfortably manage. And the business is easier to run and uses fewer resources.

Stop cancer starting and spreading

There’s  5 minute video on growth + control here, with pointers on how to get and keep control. Because that is the key – feeling in control of your business and your life. Cancer free.