To Scale Or Not To Scale?
Many business owners reach a point where they have to decide if they want to keep their businesses small and comfortable, or focus on exponential growth. What's right for you?
Questions govern our lives more than we care to admit. Indira Gandhi said it best: “The power to question is the basis of all human progress.”
There can be no better example to illustrate the direct relationship between questions and human progress than during the space race between Russia and the United States.
In 1962, John F Kennedy gave his famous ‘we choose to go to the moon’ speech and just 2 503 days later Neil Armstrong and pilot Buzz Aldrin stepped onto the moon. It was indeed a small step for man but a giant leap for mankind. The entire world celebrated the moon landing.
We marvelled at a new dawn of human achievement and the possibilities that lay before us. Yet despite all the innovation that had occurred as a result of the Space Race, there was plenty more waiting in the wings. One of those innovations was wheeled luggage.
That’s right, we put a man on the moon 13 years before we put wheels on luggage. Why? Because the best minds in the world were focused on putting a man on the moon, not making normal travel a bit easier.
Ask better questions
This same principle is true for you, because as an entrepreneur on any given day, you can create any number of possible futures for your business and for yourself. And so, the question becomes how do you create the future you truly desire?
Well, the simple way is to ask better questions, because if you don’t ask the right questions, you’ll never get the right answers. You will always be acting on less-than-okay information. And with less-than-okay information you will inevitably make less-than-okay decisions.
And decisions are your ultimate power. Whether you choose to scale up or not, your decisions today will always predict the outcomes of tomorrow.
So, what kind of questions should you be asking? Start by asking yourself: What do I want? Do you want to make the human race a multi-planetary species and colonise Mars like Elon Musk?
Do you want to prove to your dad that you can build a bigger business than he ever could? Do you want to build a bigger business than your ex-wife’s new partner? Do you want to live a simple life in relative isolation, made possible by an online information product business that makes $50 000 a month?
Find your inner values
Next, ask yourself why? For example, if you want to build a billion-dollar business, then ask yourself why? It may be because you want people to admire your achievements or maybe your risk radar is broken and you’ll do anything just to see if you can pull it off.
At its essence, it’s about understanding what motivates you as a human being. The world’s leading expert on the human psyche, Tony Robbins suggests that there are six needs that drive us as humans. These are broken down by the four needs of the personality and the two needs of the soul.
The needs of the personality:
- Certainty – the desire to know what is going to happen.
- Uncertainty – the desire and appetite for risk.
- Love – the desire to connect with people.
- Significance – the desire to be seen and admired by others.
The needs of the soul:
- Growth – the desire to grow and improve.
- Contribution – the desire to give back.
Most of us are motivated by one or two of the above needs more than the others. If you were to select two of the above six, what would they be? How can you see these needs being expressed in your behaviours and importantly, in the things that you want for yourself and for your business?
The thing about your motivations and the goals you set for yourself is that they will change over time. When I was in my twenties, when someone asked me what I wanted out of life, my need for significance would kick in and I would say, “I want to be the owner of a billion-dollar business.”
But when I’m asked that question today, the answer is all about contribution. Most entrepreneurs go through this same transformation. My good friend Rich Mulholland, who is one of South Africa’s (if not the world’s) best speakers, says it best: “When I was 20, I wanted to be a billionaire. When I was 30, I realized that I probably would never be one and at the age of 40 I stopped giving a fuck.”
He’s busy building a great new startup that he plans to scale around the world, but his why has changed.
The greatest entrepreneurs are motivated by passion
What I have observed about the motivations of the entrepreneurs who have built businesses to scale, is that they are very rarely – if ever – motivated by material things. Since the very first interview I conducted on my podcast, my last question to every guest has been this: “Why do you do what you do? What gets you get out of bed in the morning?”
You may be surprised to learn that I’ve never received an answer that had anything to do with wanting to be successful or about chasing a number in a bank account.
In fact, the large majority are motivated by spiritual needs, a deep desire for personal growth and a need to contribute to humanity and the world around them. In all cases, there is a great deal of meaning attached to their actions.
Find the hunger
Back to growth versus scale businesses. The biggest difference I’ve encountered between an entrepreneur who chooses to build a growth business versus one that chooses to pursue a scale business comes down to one thing – hunger.
‘Scalepreneurs’ or entrepreneurs who do build a business to scale, remain hungry despite their successes. It’s never about the money.
Instead, their motivations are firmly placed in the areas of uncertainty, growth and contribution and they have an insatiable fascination and curiosity to see how big something can become.
Their love for the game of business is tireless. If this sounds like you, then you are probably chasing a scale business and I would also bet that you are not reading these words by chance.
This is an edited excerpt from Matt Brown’s new book, Your Inner Game: 12 Principles For High-Impact Entrepreneurs.
To attend the launch, go to https://mattbrownshow.com/book-rsvp/