2 min read

The natural limit of small business growth

A few thoughts I shared on Twitter regarding the natural choke points of small businesses and their owners.

Source: Isaac Smith of Unsplash

A business will only grow to the incompetence level of the owner. Reasons why:

1. No need to grow further, this is a good headache to reward ratio.
2. Afraid of the next set of scaling issues
3. Owner unwilling to fill their knowledge and skill gaps
4. Unwilling to manage stress

Stress and fear never go away, you just learn to process them healthily. They are natural limiters in life. There is a person running a lemonade stand, making 15k/yr, allowing anxiety to eat them alive in the same world a person calmly runs a 100mm/yr biz.

Growing up in poverty, you won’t hear me quoting “bootstraps” horseshit or blaming the impoverished for their struggle. That said, I did notice recurring traits that show up everywhere endless struggle rears its head:

1. Stress avoidance. A perpetual unwillingness to face problems as they appear tends to allow said problems to compound beyond repairability. It’s like credit card debt. Face it as it comes. Triage fast. Do whatever you can today rather than later.

2. Knowing everything. The statement "That is unsolvable" is a catch 22, because the only person qualified to opine on a problems solvability is one that has solved it. People that struggle 'know everything'. Those that thrive are forever a student.

3. Entitlement. I spent childhood hearing "One day I'll get mine" from people that only ate, slept, worked a simple job, and watched television for their entire existence. Nature is merciless. Nothing is owed. If you want atypical output, atypical input is required.

4. Atrophy. It isn't enough to be in the right place at the right time. You have to be the right person with the right skillset in the right place at the right time. Luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Endlessly cultivate self.

5. Fear of failure. Failure isn't a bad word. It is synonymous with research, attempt, and iteration. Nature favors rapidly iterative processes. Fear of failure is a self-fulfilling prophecy, due to its paralytic effect.

So to recap:

1. Train yourself to triage problems as they arise.
2. Approach stumbling blocks with a students mindset
3. Entitlement is a liability
4. Looking for unknown unknowns within yourself
5. Replace 'failure' with 'attempt', and endlessly iterate.