Before You Decide to Expand, Answer These 3 Questions

Bigger is not always better.
Before You Decide to Expand, Answer These 3 Questions
Image credit: Joey Guidone
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This story appears in the June 2017 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

When opportunity knocks, sometimes it's smart to ignore it. 

Q: My wife and I started a church. It’s grown, and now we’re considering expanding to multiple services instead of just one. How do we decide whether to make that jump? -- Kris H.

Kris, almost every entrepreneur struggles to know if, when and how to expand. You want to offer more of what your customers (or, in your case, parishioners) love, but without exhausting your team and fracturing the model you built. 

Related: 6 Signs Your Startup Is Ready to Expand

Here’s the three-step drill we use for all our clients -- everyone from Dollar Shave Club to Equinox -- when they wonder the same thing. Once you answer these questions, your solution should become clear and you should be able to minimize potential downsides.

Question 1: Why do you want to grow? 

Answering this requires you to focus on the goals and purpose of your business. Your responses should be as specific as possible. General goals like “I want a passionate congregation” make it hard to measure progress and leave you guessing on big decisions. Next, evaluate how realistic those goals are. Here, again, is why you need to be specific. If you want 500 new people, you can begin by evaluating how many unaffiliated churchgoers are in your area.

Question 2: Whom do you want to reach? 

If expansion appeals only to your current customer base, it’s likely not worth the headache. That’s why you must consider whom else you’d reach. It’s tricky: You need insight from the people you aren’t reaching. Luckily, you can get a good sense of who they are by looking at your current crowd. Are they mainly families? Older or younger people? High-income or low? These things will indicate whether expansion will bring more of the same, or help you reach new people. 

Related: 10 Ways to Learn About Your Target Audience

Question 3: How will this impact you? 

Can your current team and structure handle growth? If not, what needs to change? Break this down into a monthly cost -- for staff, marketing and more -- so you know the most you can afford to spend, and for how long. 

If you made it through that drill and realized expansion doesn’t make sense right now, that’s fine: Progress and growth are measured in multiple ways. Expansion is just one of them. I thought a lot about this recently in my own business. Last year, we started an annual entrepreneurship conference called two12 and sold all our spaces in less than a week. This year, you’d think we’d want to add more people or a second location. Instead, we made this year’s event smaller. Why? We knew that expanding wouldn’t strengthen the business, but shrinking would help us build a stronger community.

Related: Ask This Question Before You Consider a Second Location

The same may be true for you. Doubling services might make for a more effective church, but it doesn’t guarantee it -- any more than adding more products improves a subscription box, or longer hours mean more popularity for a restaurant. More isn’t always more. You can find many ways to succeed.

Edition: July 2017

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