Now, before you react too negatively too quickly to that statement, hang with me for a moment.
My full statement would be,
If your business isn’t scalable, you don’t have a real business, you have an incorporated career (or another way to put it would be “you have a job”).
There is nothing fundamentally wrong with having an incorporated career/job. If you’re an accountant and you want to do accounting work, great. If you’re a plumber and you want to do plumbing work, great. If you’re an artist and you want to create art, great. If you’re a lawyer and you want to do lawyerly work, great. If you’re a computer programmer and you want to do programming, great.
But doing work is not the same thing as owning or leading a real business. Nor is it what you probably signed up for when you decided to start your business (i.e. few people start businesses thinking, “I can’t wait to start a job that will overwhelm and constrain me in ways I can’t even imagine.”).
This is a huge issue. And it’s one of the main reasons why so many small businesses stall or fail or stay small.
What we often forget is that a business is not about self-expression or about making enough money to pay the bills. A business is an entity separate from the person who created it that exists to solve a problem for a specific group of people.
In other words, just because a state or a city/town awards someone a license that states they’re a business does not in fact mean that entity is a real business (as I would define a business).
Once you own this idea, it changes everything. Let me explain.
I. You Are Not Equal To Your Business
At the core of most small business failures is this idea that a business is an expression of the person who started it or is currently leading it.
It makes complete sense how this happens. If you’re a physician who wants to do heart surgery, form a business that allows you to do heart surgery. If you’re an attorney and you want to do real estate transactions, open an office that allows you to do that. If you’re a sales person who loves to sell, create a business that allows you to do that. If you’re a finance person who loves to play with money, create a business that allows you to do that.
That natural desire has been further stoked by issues like “the lifestyle business” model or the “pursue your passion” movement. Basically, the argument has been, “It’s all about you!” And who can argue with that? Who doesn’t like to hear it’s all about them? It’s an easy sell because, well, we’re all born with a nature that’s motivated by self-interest.
But that easy sell on the front end is what creates the problem on the back end. When a business is all about you then who has to be at the center of everything? Exactly … you! And you wonder why you always feel overwhelmed or why “no one takes responsibility around here” or “why can’t anyone make a decision on their own,” etc.
Why? Because you designed your business that way (that is, if it’s not a scalable business model). If your business is an expression of you and your passions and your wants and your preferred lifestyle, then it’s really not a business (i.e. an entity external to you), it’s an incorporated career/job.
Once you own this idea that a business is not about you or your self-expression but an entity separate from you that exists to solve a problem for a specific group of people, you’ll begin to change everything in your business and you’ll finally build the kind of business you always dreamed of building.
II. Real Businesses Exist to Solve Problems
A business, as a separate entity, doesn’t exist for you, it exists for others. Note: for those who think a business exists for its shareholders, I disagree. The shareholders are beneficiaries of the successful execution of a business’ plan to solve a problem (or a set of problems) for a specific group of people. If the focus of a “business” is on its shareholders, it’ll quickly go out of business and those shares will be worthless.
The only way for a business to succeed and make money is to solve a problem that other people think is worthy of a value exchange. Just because you have something you want to offer for sale does not obligate other people to buy it. If it doesn’t meet a need/want that other people have at a price point they deem as a win for them, you lose.
In other words, instead of looking at what you want to do or what you want to offer or what you want to build, if you want to build a real business (a scalable business) then you’ll want to start with the people in your target market who have a need or a want to solve a problem or heal a hurt or overcome an obstacle or fulfill a desire in a way that’s easier, faster, better, cheaper, more consistent, of a higher quality or promises a higher return than they could get on their own. That’s it.
Or to put it a little simpler,
“Businesses exist to solve problems for people or groups of people (businesses, governments, non-profits, etc.) in a way that is easier, faster, better, cheaper, more consistent, of a higher quality or higher return than they could on their own.”
Once you own this, it changes everything as well. Instead of looking internally and asking, “What do I (or we) want to offer,” you’ll be looking externally and asking, “How can we solve a specific problem that enough people in our target market want in a way that is easier, faster, cheaper, better, etc. than they can solve on their own for a positive value exchange for them at a decent profit margin for us?”
III. Therefore, There Is An Ethical Imperative Your Business Becomes Scalable
Assuming you buy into my argument that businesses exist not for owners/shareholders and their self-interests but for others and meeting their needs/wants in a way that those prospects are willing to engage in a value exchange that they believe is favorable to their own self-interest, that leads to a natural moral/ethical obligation and motivation as to why you should want to build a scalable business.
However before I explain what I mean by that, let me first define what I mean by being scalable.
“A scalable business is a systematized business that is designed and built for rapid growth and can sustain that growth.”
In other words, a scalable business isn’t dependent upon you or a group of highly talented people who randomly do work that only they know how to do. No, a scalable business is a systematized business—meaning that no matter who’s doing the work, it can still be done in an efficient and effective manor to deliver the results the customer/client is looking for (or your internal organization needs).
Secondly, it’s designed to scale because it’s not focused on the self-expression of the founder/leader. It’s designed to meet the needs/wants of a significantly large enough group of people at a huge value add for them vs. the price and to do so at a fast/rapid pace (i.e. not at 2%-5% growth but at 25%-1000% growth).
Thirdly, with that design in place, everything is done internally to build that kind of business at that kind of pace so that the business itself can sustain that kind of growth and not collapse under its own weight. Which, by the way, is one of the reasons why you should want to build a scalable business.
Why? Because, in order for a business to grow rapidly and sustain that growth well, it can’t be built with you at the center of everything since you and your time aren’t scalable (i.e. it forces you to build a business that gives you freedom to enjoy being the owner/founder).
Once you own all of this, you’ll be able to see why I say that there is a moral/ethical obligation to become scalable. Let me explain.
If your business isn’t all about you but about the people you serve who have a problem that you can solve for them easier, faster, better, cheaper, etc. than they can solve on their own at a positive value exchange—but they can’t be helped because you’ve built a business with built-in limitations (i.e. it’s not systematized, there’s limited capacity, it’s dependent upon you, it’s not lead or managed well, there’s no systematic marketing and sales machine in place, etc.) then you’re doing a disservice to all of the people who need your help but can’t be helped because your business isn’t scalable.
This is the reason why we do everything we do here at Wired To Grow. We exist to help business owners and entrepreneurs like you because we fundamentally believe that
“Every business should be a scalable business.”
If you’re willing to stand up and start a business (thank you!), then make sure you do it right. Don’t build your business around you and your lifestyle. Build your business around helping as many people as possible because to not do so is a disservice to all of those who need your help.
If you believe that there are more people you could be helping than you’re currently helping right now (and what business leader doesn’t?), then I would argue you have an ethical imperative to create a more scalable version of your business.
Once you own this, it changes everything again. No longer will you limit the potential for your business. No longer will you want to organize it around you. No longer will you tolerate poor performance. No longer will you allow unsystematized work. Why? Because there are way too many people and businesses counting on you and your business to help them. As I said, you’re doing a disservice to people if you don’t build a scalable business.
So, if you want to build a real business (not an incorporated career or job), then I’d encourage you to make the decision today to build a scalable business from this point forward. And to do that, I would suggest that you start with the following three items:
- Remove yourself from the center of your business. See your business as an entity that exists external to you. This will be incredibly freeing!
- Stop thinking about your self-expression and lifestyle. Fall in love with the people in your target market (note: this includes your customers who are simply a subset of your target market). Become obsessed with solving their needs and wants in ways that are easier, faster, better, cheaper, etc. than they can solve on their own.
- Own the idea that you’re doing a disservice to people if you don’t create a scalable version of your business. Design your business to help as many people as you and your team can in a sustainable and systematic way so no one, including you, gets crushed in the process.
When you create a scalable business, you’re creating a real business. And not only will you be able to help more people and businesses, your business will grow faster, you’ll make more money, you’ll employ more people, you’ll contribute more tax revenue to your community to help sustain it and you’ll get to enjoy a better quality of life. When you consider all of that, why would you ever want to create anything less than a scalable business?
To your accelerated success!