Down the street from my house, there’s a butcher with a showcase that literally makes you drool…assuming you’re a carnivore.

The business has been around for nearly 60 years. A couple years ago, the father died and the store is now run by his sons.

scaleAfter picking up a couple of steaks recently, I started talking to one of the sons about business. When I told him that I did marketing for small business, he said they didn’t do much marketing other than a Website.

As a dyed-in-the-wool marketer, I suggested Instagram would be a good option given that people love taking photos of food.

That suggestion didn’t get much traction. He said sales are strong so having marketing attract more customers would actually be bad for business.

“We offer great customer service. If we add more customers, we won’t be able to serve them well,” he said, adding that line-ups on weekends often deter people from coming in.

It is an interesting approach. He doesn’t want to get bigger because bigger isn’t necessarily better. Getting bigger means changing how business is done, hiring more employees and probably moving into a larger place. There is risk involved in establishing a larger footprint.

The butcher’s approach to business contrasts with the “scale” mantra within the startup world. Being a successful entrepreneur means scaling your business. It’s not enough to do well, you need to get bigger.

For some entrepreneurs, bigger is better. They’re ambitious, aggressive and hungry for more sales and profits.

But many entrepreneurs are happy not to scale. They operate a business that feels right. It’s the right size with the right number of employees and the right amount of responsibility. To them getting bigger involves more work, hours and investment, which doesn’t necessarily translate into a better business.

Some people are happy running a small business. It aligns with their temperament, appetite for risk and their lifestyle. Like the butcher, many of them could easily expand but it’s not the path they want to take.

I think the lesson for entrepreneurs is that growth is seductive and compelling. But it’s not easy or always successful.

When a business scales, it can impact a company’s culture, personality, and operating style. Things that worked before are no longer effective. The customer service isn’t as personal. The staff is no longer like family. The entrepreneur isn’t as carefree and happy.

Don’t get me wrong; if you want to scale your business, knock your socks off. Canada needs more entrepreneurs who want to scale into world-class companies rather than settle for being a local success.

At the same time, it’s important to scale with your eyes wide open.


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