When working with lots of different businesses and talking to lots of small business owners, many seem to be focussed on growth, without being able to articulate what the growth is for, or why it is required.

It seems as if many small business owners never take the time to stop and think about what they actually want their business to provide, for them and their families, and then design the business around that focus.

Whilst the basic principle of growing a business is sound, it does not directly lead to you achieving the life you actually want.

You need to design and build the business around what you want it to provide, and that does not always mean growing a big business.

We recently worked with a family business who realised that they were more focussed on providing continuous employment for their staff, instead of ensuring they build a business that provides them with what they want and need the business to provide.

A very good analogy for growth, for the sake of growth, comes from the Canadian Redwood trees. Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths discuss this in their book, Algorithms To Live By, quoting Richard Dawkins. (Their discussion is not business related, but it seems a very fitting analogy.)

The canopy of the Canadian Redwoods is a marvel indeed, and these trees tower over everything else. But it is completely irrational. The driver behind these trees growing so tall is simply because each is trying to be just a little bit taller than the other, in order to catch a bit more sunlight

The photosynthesis of the canopy performs on the same level as a meadow, much lower down. The issue though is that a disproportionate amount of the energy it generates this way is used up by the “stilts” holding the meadow up in the air. The same surface area and volume on the ground would be much more efficient.

If only the Redwoods could come to an agreement to stop growing so tall and return to a meadow.

It could be the same in your business.

If you are not growing in the right way, and for the right reason, you will be putting in place a lot of “stilts” – staff members, fixed costs etc, instead of actually generating additional profits or income for the business owners.

I focussed on this with a business in the past, and the outcome served nobody well. The stress of keeping all the stilts in place became overwhelming and the entire forest collapsed.

Many business owners would be far better off running small teams which are highly efficient, focussed and effective, instead of simply growing taller and taller structures because that is what everyone else is doing.

Stop for a moment and determine the real reason you are trying to grow your business.

Do you actually need to “Grow” your business in order to generate more profit?

You could achieve a great deal by simply working hard at reducing your fixed costs, improving processes and using more automation; savings which go straight to the bottom line.

Pieter K de Villiers

Author: Pieter K de Villiers

Pieter K de Villiers is slightly obsessed with systems. The systems and process automation he builds for small businesses are transformative, to say the least. Pieter is a Co-Founder of Barefoot Digital and the Amazon best-selling author of “Barefoot Business: 3 key systems to attract more leads, win more sales and delight more customers without your business killing you”.