The conventional business wisdom to growth is to “scale up.” Take a success and replicate it across geography, expanding the business platform as you go. Sounds smart.
What’s the alternative? Stay small and eventually disappear? Not necessarily, especially if you do your own thinking. I recently learned about a compelling alternative being created by Paul Saginaw, the co-founder of Zingerman’s, a popular deli and community of food-related businesses in Ann Arbor, Michigan. When faced with the traditional path forward of opening new stores, he took a very different strategy, one that sprang from a radical philosophy.
“Business shouldn’t exist in order to create wealth. It should exist in order to give people better lives.”
Essentially, he built value by stimulating employee-owned supplier businesses, improving the capabilities and lives of the people who made him successful. He believes that there really is a concept of “enough.” When our businesses have enough profit; when we have enough money. Check out his story.
When I apply his thinking to my own business, I reflect on my financial advisors’ periodic advice: Grow through adding coaches, leverage your time. And, I think about the job offer I just turned down, with a much more lucrative “exit strategy” than my solo business.
But, the cost to either path is huge. I would lose the current balance with my personal life (for some new balance weighted toward work). Delivering my work would be far more complicated. I would have to supervise people, develop business to “feed” them. More time.
And, what I love about my work is the actual work, the thinking with clients and on my own. The joy of figuring things out and making a difference. I must admit that I not only have “enough,” I have a fabulous work-life (not without it’s challenges of course).
At the same time, I am wondering “how would I scale up through ownership,” making an impact through others’ success. I’ve always toyed with the idea of fueling the coaching community or helping organizations build coaching cultures. Some things to think about.
The point here goes beyond Zingerman’s success and philosophy. It certainly goes beyond entrepreneurial concerns, since most of you probably don’t own a deli or your own business.
This week think about one or more of these questions:
- What is my philosophy, my way of thinking, about what I am trying to accomplish in my work?
- Would I lead, manage or participate differently if I simply started living that philosophy more fully?
- What do I really want and need as an end-game?
Let me know what you think and how you see your world differently this week.