One of the things that small business owners become quickly addicted to is the notion of growth. After all, the reason why most of us go into business in the first place is to ‘make our mark’ on the world with a thriving, successful business. To the entrepreneur, there is little in life that is more exciting that finding new business deals, building new relationships, and growing your business from a small fledgling startup into a strong pillar of the community.

What frequently gets lost in this scramble for success is the ultimate goal that you are aspire to achieve. For most businesspeople, that goal is wealth, and the time to enjoy life. Many entrepreneurs growth their way into wealth, but find that the more their business grows, the less time they have to enjoy anything.

The reason for this is because larger businesses have more problems to solve. More customers means more decision makers to please, more deals to re-negotiate, and more times that issues need to be smoothed over if something doesn’t go according to plan. The trap that many businesspeople fall into is that they start their business by doing everything themselves, and continue to do everything themselves until they are so stressed out that a nervous breakdown ensues.

In most cases, the root of this problem comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of what business owners are attempting to achieve. Many think that the goal is to achieve more revenue, but the ‘real’ goal is to achieve more economic freedom. There are two fundamental elements that make up economic freedom. One is money and the other is time. Both are necessary to live your dreams, and neither is sufficient without the other.

The problem that is created by growth obsession is that a business will expand its way into lots of money, but will do so by dominating all of the owner’s time. This apparent paradox is the exact opposite of economic freedom. Instead of building the money and time to follow your dreams, you have built a steady stream of money that requires you to constantly invest all of your time in order to keep it flowing. The alternative to this model is growing smart instead of growing big.

The difference between growing big and growing smart is one of paradigms. The way that your paradigms are shaped will determine how your business grows. Consider the paradigm difference between growing big and growing smart:

Grow Big

  • Increase revenue as fast as possible by finding deals and growing production
  • Income per year of work is what matters
  • I need to spend time managing and growing my business
  • I need every customer that I can get
  • Expansion is how I will grow revenue
  • I don’t trust anybody else to run my business the right way
  • Without my constant effort, the business will fail

Grow Smart

  • Increase revenue through innovations that allow you to become more efficient and spend less time earning your next dollar of income
  • Income per hour of work is what matters
  • I need to eliminate the aspects of my business that waste time, but don’t produce income
  • I focus on customers that produce the most value for my business
  • Expansion only makes sense if my systems are already automated
  • I must trust somebody else to run my business the right way
  • A business that requires my constant effort isn’t one that I want to run

In the end, growth is what fuels business. It is the reason why you ventured out from the apparent safety of employment to create an enterprise of your own. Ultimately, it is the way that you grow, which will determine how (or whether) you achieve economic freedom. By avoiding the common fallacy that bigger must be better, it will allow you to grow in a way that is smarter and consistently pushes you closer to a future of wealth, time, and freedom.

Action Item: Shift your business paradigms to grow smart instead of big. Avoid the trap that many entrepreneurs fall into where growing revenue eats up your time until you have no time left to do anything but work. Always remember that economic freedom is achieved when you have both money and time. One without the other will be of little use in helping you achieve your goals. (Top image: Flickr | Flynn Wynn)

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