The freedom of staying small

Words by Carl Phillips

Our culture often has a strange way of measuring success. This is particularly true in business pursuits.

Too often the focus is on growth for the sake of growth. This approach leads to talk of “scaling up,” “gaining more market share,” and eventually “flipping companies.” It can also lead to all sorts of questionable behaviour and code of conduct.

To my mind, this is a limited perspective.

Is continually growing our business leading to less headache, more health, and more work/life balance for both business leaders and employees?

Does working more hours to earn more money mean we get more quality time with our loved ones?

Does all this striving for more and more make us feel like our best self? Does it truly feel “successful”?

Is spreading our effort wide leading to a better product for our current customers?

I’ve run my own business for a decade now. I have zero employees—it’s a micro-business of one. I have a simple business model and I am always looking for ways to make that simpler. The fewer moving parts my business has, the better. The more I can focus on what I do well, the better the results for the customer—the more successful I feel.

The original reason for me starting my company was the ability to choose how my life ran—I wanted more freedom and flexibility in how I worked. I wanted a choice in what type of customers I worked with. My wife and I love to travel, so I also wanted the ability to be able to pick up, and take three months off, travelling some years (as we have done).

I didn’t want the pressure of taking on employees and having to keep cashflow moving through the business, so people could pay their mortgages. I didn’t want the hassle of having to work for customers that were not a good fit for me. I didn’t want to be limited to doing things one set way.

Many of these reasons are the same reasons I continue to run my micro-business today. These are metrics of success that matter to me. Freedom, flexibility, and the ability to choose. Yes, I need to pay the bills (and for travels), but enough can be enough.

More is not always better. Growth is not always positive. There is a point of diminished returns.

Redefine your own vision of success. Rediscover the power and freedom in staying small.

Carl Phillips

Carl is a writer and runs Frictionless Living, a site about the pursuit of simplicity to help us focus on what matters most. It’s about finding clarity in distracted times.

Frictionless Living

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