If you spend any time reading about business or startups, there is an overwhelming tendency to emphasize how to scale and grow as fast as possible. It’s as if that is the only reason to create a business. There is plenty of satisfaction in being small. Most businesses were small for a long time before they got big. When they get big, the founders often are remiss over the time their company was small. That’s where all of the joy tends to be for them. It all depends on what you want and where you find joy and fulfillment.
When you are aiming for the fully scaled multi-million dollar business with hundreds or thousands of employees, you set yourself up for misery until you meet that goal. When you reach it, there is a moment of satisfaction, and then the ‘now what?’ Add a zero. It’s like an Olympic gold medalist. They train their entire life, they nail that gold, and then what? That’s it? They think the only way to be happy again is to set a new goal. This leaves you right back to where you were before you started. It stands to reason that if you want joy and fulfillment you are going to need to be able to enjoy going from A to B wherever those may be. That is most of the time. Passing a goal post is but a brief moment. Fulfillment lies in the travel.
Smaller can be better
For this reason, small can be better than big when it comes to the size of a business. Now I write this as a small business person who has not built a multi-million dollar business. Get your stones out and start throwing. I too seek meaning and a philosophy to maximize my personal happiness. Lately I’ve been considering how to do this by staying small and not going for massive scale as fast as I can.
I do yearn and plot to grow a bigger business. It’s Pavlovian. But then I ask myself why. Do I want more money? Do I want more accolades and adoration simply for the sake of being bigger? I believe what I really want is to help real estate promoters succeed in raising money on their own so they get their deals done successfully. Helping others succeed is what I would like to be measured by.
Even though my businesses grow each year, there is still a feeling of never being enough until I reach the next milestone. But being small enables me to do a few things that I really enjoy. I can serve each customer much better if I am focused on fixing their problems instead of fixing mine (growing the business). This will probably end up growing my business faster anyway because customers will tell their friends what a great experience they had. The experience is what sells a company. If that is sacrificed to growth, it can be a killer. Customers simply won’t get what their coming to you for. So I am trying to enjoy the process of the work itself without being attached to the goal, not always successfully.
If you’ve ever done a competitive sport you know how disturbing it can be to focus on your competitor. I used to compete in high speed pistol shooting. It’s a great sport for calming the mind because you have to trick your brain not to flinch at the experience of a gun going off in your hands. You can’t help it, new shooters flinch when the gun goes off. When I’m shooting I have a mantra I repeat in my head while discharging rounds at my target… ‘just click.’ I’m telling my brain that when I squeeze the trigger the firearm will click as if it were empty. This causes me to relax and not flinch right before the trigger pull fires the next round. This one thing puts more rounds in the black at greater speeds for me than anything else. That is where I am enjoying the process of putting rounds on paper as fast as I can with greater accuracy.
This all goes to hell when you shoot competitively. Imagine two shooters next to each other, each staring at their own targets. A buzzer goes off and the timer starts. You have to hit 5 targets as quickly as possible with 6 rounds of ammunition. Shots ring out and steel plates start dropping, *ping*, *ping*, *ping*. The rate your opponents plates drop becomes noticeably faster, or slower. Your mind is drawn to see how they are doing compared to your performance. The moment you stop to look at their progress and judge whether or not you are doing better or worse is the moment you’ve lost. Those precious portions of a second focus you on the goal of winning and not the process of shooting. When you’re thinking about the goal, you can’t execute the process that will get you there.
The goal must simply be a result of a process or actions that you have devised to get you there. Worry about the process and the goal simply becomes an outcome. It’s all about execution.
You have to enjoy the process and let go of the outcome to actually get it. Most people don’t like work they don’t enjoy. Painting the outside of a house in the middle of the summer is not most people’s idea of fun. When you get into the task after you have decided that you’re going to do it anyway, it can become fun. Setting aside your resentments and just taking one stroke at a time reveals a new surface, an improvement, something to take pride in. It’s going to take 2000 strokes to paint the house. That’s 10 sets of 200. Once you cut it up, enjoying the process becomes easier to take on, and it will get you to the goal.
This can be a sales funnel, code for each function in a program, or any other metric that adds up to your goal. Focus on setting up the shot, not where it lands. If you keep improving the setup, the outcome is sure to follow and you can enjoy being in the moment that is the process.
When I’m wrapped up trying to be bigger than I am or where I think the business can go, I am setting expectations and focusing on the goal. I’m not accomplishing anything in that state of mind. My business my never get ‘big.’ If I can enjoy each stoke of paint, it doesn’t have to be. I still find myself thinking about what could be, but want to find happiness in the doing. Helping people is the core of any good business. That’s where I want to get my rewards, even if I fail to do so from time to time. So I’m going to do my best to make my process help my customers and truly find joy in the process of doing it without attachment to the outcome.