“Stretch your foot to the length of your blanket.” – Persian proverb
Think of your business as a small city-state in a vast wilderness. The wilderness is rich in potential but uncultivated. You understand its great possibilities. And you understand too that although it is now free to whoever grabs it, it will one day belong to you or other fledgling city-states.
As president of your little country, you have a choice: You can send all your best people out to the wilderness to claim new territories — and thus secure the most possible land for yourself — or you can focus all your best talent on the city you now occupy and make it large and strong and prosperous. What do you do?
If you have all your best people, mules, and guns out there fighting Indians (yes — Indians), you may not have what you need to protect your home base if it comes under attack. If you keep all your people within the walls of your city-state, you forfeit the chance to get a lot bigger.
That’s the basic growth dilemma of small businesses. In the free markets of the world, their potential is limitless. But their resources are not. If they stretch themselves too thin, trying to grab hold of too much business too soon, they are likely to fall apart. If they stay tight and small, their chance of survival is much higher but their potential is limited.
If your business is still in the growth stage, you deal with manifestations of this dilemma every day.
The best course of action — in my view — is one that feels slightly uncomfortable. You push yourself to the point where your current resources are strained, but not so far that things start hurting.
The analogy here is yoga. To become very flexible as fast as you can, you don’t stretch your muscles so hard that they hurt. Instead, you stretch to the point of tension and then breathe through it.
That’s how you should think of your business. If you have been able to organize and improve everything to the point where your days (and everyone else’s days) are running smoothly, you are probably not in a growing phase. If you are pushing yourself and everyone else to the point of anger and frustration, you are probably trying to grow too fast.
Push for tension — for a sense of bearable discomfort — and then learn to breathe through it. This will allow your business to grow, but not so fast that it self-destructs.