Advice from a small business owner: Why it’s okay being small

After 22 years of running a successful small business I’ve accepted, and in fact embraced, the joy of being small.

I have a video production business and I have a part time editor (although he’s kept pretty busy) and I work with freelance cameramen, producers and directors. I see a lot of small businesses feeling pressured to grow, get bigger, take on more staff.

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I’ve had opportunities to do that over the decades but each time I’ve looked at it and considered this question:

Will this be of benefit or will it cause more stress, more costs, less time and less profit to my business?

And you should ask yourself the same.

I guess for an entrepreneur I’m conservative. When I started my business I wanted to enjoy it. And I have.

For some people they want to be the next Steve Jobs and I wish them all the best. For me, however, I simply want to enjoy what I do and be rewarded appropriately for my creativity and expertise. It has always been about the journey. About enjoying the ride.

I’ve seen people who work relentlessly until they retire and then die. What’s the point? It’s as if they are working so that they can achieve a lifestyle but forget to have a lifestyle along the way. Now is the only time we have to enjoy ourselves.

So I keep it simple. I book in crew for the jobs as they come up. I have tried having full time staff in the past but I found myself spending days thinking about what I can do to keep them busy during the quiet times. It would have been easier for me to pay them to go the beach so I could focus on the next sale I needed to generate.

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Today more than ever it is easier to run a global small business with virtual and freelance staff.

People are available throughout the world on sites like Upwork, fiverr.com, freelancer, and 99 designs. For a small price you can compete globally.

Having a small operation allows me the freedom to prioritise how I want to spend my time. I’m free to schedule the school pickups, the ski holidays, the long weekends.

Of course there is also the responsibility to step up and work the extra hours when it’s required. At the end of the day the bank balance will always reflect how well your business is working.

For many years the mantra of business experts is that growth equals success. But how do we define growth? Is it a higher turnover? More profit? A bigger office? More staff? Or is it personal growth and development? Or is the mantra misguided?

My turnover has remained fairly steady for the last fifteen years. I haven’t grown in the traditional sense. Personally I’ve grown and I have enjoyed myself. For me success is about being happy.

For me success is about being happy.

Having health, happiness and love around you and the time to enjoy it.

And there is always growth of sorts happening in my business. I need to embrace new technologies, set new goals, develop new markets. Being steady and stable is not the same as being still.

There still needs to be activity focused on current goals. I guess my point is how big, hairy and audacious do you need your goals to be? That comes down to the individual and where they are at in their lives.

If you have a young family then you will never have another time to watch your children grow and change every day. So is now the time to prioritise your business so you can be present for those moments? That’s a personal choice.

For me being a parent is a priority and by having a business that I run, rather than a business that runs me, I am able to make time to be present for my children.

Let me clarify a point however:

Being small doesn’t mean doing it alone.

On the contrary having a robust team around allows you the freedom to enjoy your business. The key is to develop a team of freelance workers who work alongside when you need and alongside others when you don’t need them.

It’s about being smarter in how you distribute your workload so that quality results are being achieved with or without you. So before you take that next leap, ask yourself why are you doing it? Is it because someone told you that’s what a business does, or is it because that’s what you really want?

For me I want to enjoy myself and this is how I do it.

What is your why? Tell us in the comments below!

Check out Get Your Life Back ebook by Kasia Gospos, founder of Leaders in Heels, on how you can streamline and automate your business and life so that you have more time for what you really love.


11 replies on “Advice from a small business owner: Why it’s okay being small

  • Kurt

    thanks Geoff! Definitely the way I’ve run my business but always great to read about a like minded soul! Great article!

  • Wendy Lloyd Curley

    I absolutely love my small business. Have to say that my corporate job stole my twenties and most of my thirties from me. Working in a multi-level marketing business where I have no boss, no employees, lots of support and recognition, and incredible schedule flexibility has changed my life. I work hard, I outsource things I can’t fit in, and I love being small. Great article. Really resonated with me. WLC.

  • roland Hanekroot

    What a great article Geoff, thanks for putting it out. I often think that we are unnecessarily focused on growth… growth is good and bigger is better than smaller. We in small business especially I think that’s complete nonsense, and what;s more I think it’s proven to be dangerous nonsense.
    We are constantly bombarded with the images and stories of the super entrepreneurs, like the Richard Bransons of this world, and we are brainwashed to believe we have to strive to emulate people like him. And while I absolutely have a lot of respect for RB, it is quite dangerous to assume that to be a good business owner you must set goals that lead to having your own private island in the Bahamas.
    Very Very few of us will ever own private islands in the Bahamas, it’s just not where most of us are headed, and that;s neither good nor bad… it just is. What is good is to be striving to build a business that suits you and sustains you and the people who are important to you, as you have done Geoff.
    There is a great book by Bo Burlingham of which the title says it all: ‘Small Giants; companies that have chose to be great instead of big”… Focus on building something that’s great instead of big and your life will be so much richer for it.
    Thanks Geoff

  • Geoff Anderson

    Thanks Roland. It helps if you take some time out to think about what you really want from your business and what’s it’s there for. Hopefully it’s there for you and not the other way around.

    – Geoff

  • Nicole Robertson

    Fantastic article! My freelance business has always been about making sure I am around for my kids and enjoying my work whilst still able to contribute to the family budget. That’s not to say I haven’t questioned myself along the way and queried whether I should be displaying more ‘drive’ to grow my business. I will keep this article to re-read when I have those thoughts again!
    Thanks Geoff. :)

  • Geoff Anderson

    Hi Nicole. It’s funny how we feel tempted to go against our gut feel, because someone told us we should. I’m sure when you’re ready you can push your business and hopefully be doing it for all the right reasons. In the meantime you can treasure those precious years with your family.

  • Roger Ellison

    Geoff this is so parallel to my thinking on the topic. My sons want me to expand but I’m very happy to save those stresses and enjoy life.
    By the way I too am a video producer specialising in events particularly stage concerts, etc. I also do multi-channel audio for orchestras, etc. If you ever need another cameraman or editor let me know.

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