How do businesses begin? Someone has a dream or a necessity and they take action to make it happen. Businesses can be small or large. But bigger is not always better. Your business has to suit your needs and lifestyle.
My Family’s Business
Before I was born my father had a heart attack. He worked at a very stressful job with a crazy boss. The stress (and I’m sure some of his eating habits) finally got to him. Fortunately, he got through it and went on to have another child (me). After this experience he needed to make money but he didn’t want to work for anyone else.
My parents bought a new house that had a small business attached to it. It was a take-out-only sandwich shop. I remember my mother saying how scary it was the first day they were open for business. They weren’t sure anyone would come in. But as lunch hour neared, people flooded in from all of the local businesses.
They were so busy they could barely keep up. When then finally closed their doors, they looked at each other and burst out laughing. Relief and success flooded over them.
My father ran that successful small business for 27 years until he retired.
Why Stay Small?
Over the years, people have asked him why he didn’t expand and open stores all over the city. But he only wanted the one. It made him a good living. He was able to provide for his family, send his kids to college, and work at home. He didn’t want any more than that. He didn’t want to force any of his children into the business. He wanted us to have our own dreams. His dream business was in line with his life’s goals.
He loved being his own boss and he loved that he didn’t have to travel to go to work. Our store was a neighborhood fixture. My dad was a huge personality and people would stop by to get a sandwich and talk sports with him. He set up a pizza booth at the annual summer carnival that benefitted the boy’s and girl’s club. He gave out hot dogs on opening day of baseball season. He employed some of the local kids.
He was happy with his small business.
Business as Lifestyle
I know many of my readers are entrepreneurs. You have small and even micro businesses. And you like it that way. It allows you freedom to be creative and provides a suitable income.
Not everyone wants to become a giant corporation and that’s OK. Some people want to build an empire, and that’s OK too.
The beauty of owning a small business in America, is that you can build it to suit your lifestyle. If you want to work from home, you can. If you want to make all of the decisions, you can. You don’t have to share profits with anyone. You don’t have to answer to anyone. You can sell to your local community or you can go online and sell to the world, all from your home or a small studio.
Growth for the sake of growth is never a good idea. You don’t want your business to become something you no longer enjoy. When you niche down and stay small, you can really become a master in your area of expertise. If you try to expand into other products and services, there is always the danger that you’ll dilute your brand and spread yourself too thin.
Doing one thing really well can lead to building a niche brand that you and your customers adore. Customer service can be more specific and personal. You maintain the artisan quality of your products instead of having to develop a larger manufacturing plan. You are building a lifestyle as well as a business.
What Do You Want To Build?
Do you want to build an empire? Or do you want to have a personal business that meets your lifestyle goals. Or perhaps you want a side hustle for a little extra cash and artistic fulfillment.
As a coach, I can choose to work individually with clients and run group programs, or expand into a coaching megacorp than trains others to be coaches. For now, I’m content to build my small practice.
Bigger is not always better. There is no right or wrong answer. It all depends on what is best for you.
As a business owner I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Please share them in the comments below.
I love love love this post. Firstly, the story of your father is the perfect American Dream. Secondly, it empowers me to not want to grow. People ask me sometimes – oh why don’t you go on Shark Tank, why don’t you do xyz, and I couldn’t find the words to explain that I am happy just keeping it small – thanks for validating whatever makes US happy.
Thanks, Kristen. You have to build the business you want, not the one everyone thinks you ought to have.
What a sweet story. I love how your dad focused on his life and family not building an empire. I recently finished an entrepreneurial class and one thing that really bugged me was the focus on grow, Grow, GROW. I remember sitting with a mentor thinking, “He doesn’t get that my daughter and I want to support a life not build an empire.”