Being a micro-business: NOT staying small is the big mistake

Stop fretting about growth, it's ok to remain small, local, micro. Robert Craven on why the 'right' strategy isn't always the same for every business

The economist Leopold Kohr said that “Wherever something is wrong, something is too big.”

Look at what still works for Tesco: its local, small stores.

Most successful businesses (and that means small, even micro, businesses) are run by “Everyday Entrepreneurs” – those who have to deliver solutions to minor and major problems every day of their working lives – practical action plans rather than unrealistic, magic wand solutions. Mostly they are obsessives. Ask their life partners!

Many businesses succeed in their early days when their founding entrepreneur is working obsessively “at the coal face”. Then they get tired of it, move away from the coal face – and everything starts to stutter and stumble. The founding entrepreneur gets disheartened, and casts around for grasses greener, so the business falters further.

The two big mistakes, then, of small companies are:

Letting the founder stop doing what (s)he does best – and the most common example of that is stopping meeting customers/clients, and stopping providing solutions for them.

Everyday Entrepreneurs need to be at the coal face for some time every day – or risk losing what made the company successful originally. They also need to stick at it because the grass is rarely greener: it only looks that way.

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Delegation is necessary as a company grows, and most entrepreneurs are rubbish at it for one simple and compelling reason: nobody else is as good as they are.

They tend to be one person bands – and stay that way as a consequence. Staying at the coal face and building a management team is essential for success.

Thinking that success means growing the company. Although it is not often said, staying small and profitable may mean more satisfaction, better life-work balance, and a more sustainable business, but we are obsessed with growth, not least because of the examples the media presents of “successful” people – people with rapid growth and/or a grand scale business.

For most, staying small, staying with what they know, and staying close to the coal face will almost certainly be the smartest things they do. Getting bigger should not be assumed to be the right strategy for every company, and certainly not for every business owner.

Just because you are good at creating and running a £1m business does not mean you will be good at running a £10m, never mind £100m, business.

Robert Craven is an entrepreneur, businessman and author. His latest book is Grow Your Service Firm. He is managing director of The Directors’ Centre.


(will not be published)