Why Many Small Businesses Stay Small

Marketing Fundamentals
What’s your plan to grow your small business?

There is nothing wrong with running a small business. I know folks that I really admire that run small businesses. They’re created something that provides for the life that they want to lead. Their businesses allow them freedom, security and fulfill their lives.

Not everyone wants to run Apple or Google or Walmart.

But some people do and even others want to take their business from a place where it’s smaller than they would like to a place where they would like it. Maybe not all the way to the level of a major business, but to a place where it’s bigger than it is right now.

That’s where we come to the reasons why many small businesses stay small. Let’s get into a few of the things holding small businesses back when the owner wants things to grow.


When we’re starting out in our business we leverage ourselves. Our time and our energy are used to build something that works. We find something that someone wants and we provide it for them for a profit. Then we look to repeat that process to make repeated profit.

The items that get leveraged in this stage are time and energy. We max those out and you can get a pretty good small business going by doing that. You can charge more to make more profit, but ultimately you’ll hit a wall or your max leverage.

At that point, you need to find ways to add leverage to your business. That comes in the form of people and systems. You can figure out efficient systems so you don’t need to hire a crazy number of people. You could create something that runs completely on its own. That would be nice.

But usually you’ll need to hire people. You’ll hire people to do the things you don’t enjoy doing so much, but the hard part is hiring for the things you do enjoy and for the things you don’t understand.

I know a small business owner who said he was pretty good with sales, but he said his business really took off when he hired a great salesperson. He leveraged that salesperson’s ability and it helped to grow the company. This same business owner was also pretty open to technology, but not always. He did hire someone that had good ideas for new technology and leveraged that person’s expertise and the technology to grow the business again.

Small businesses that stay small lack leverage.

A key to growth is figuring out what you can leverage to grow your business and then executing it.


Some businesses aren’t setup to scale. It’s just fine to run a business that operates on a small scale. You can make a comfortable living with a small business.

But if you want the company to grow you’ll run into certain points in the growth when you get stuck. This is a point where you can’t scale unless you make some changes.

One example would be the restaurant industry. You can leverage a single restaurant location all you want, but once you maximize people in the seats and make the processes as efficient as possible you’re still going to have one restaurant.

The key to scaling in that situation is creating the procedures that allow you to open a new restaurant. You have one good manager and a good team at one location, but now you need to do that again with the next restaurant and the next.

Sam Walton was good at the idea of scale. He started with one store, but always looked at his store as a starting point. He thought about how he could turn the store into more than just one location and what that would take.

Thinking about your business in big terms will get the gears in your brain turning and you’ll be surprised at how effectively you can fill in the blanks to turn your small business into a scaling business.

But you have to flip the switch.

Operate Like You’re Dying

I’ve been following the blog, This Life I Live, by Rory Feek. He’s a songwriter and one half of the country duo, Joey + Rory. His wife, Joey, has terminal cancer. It’s been heartbreaking to follow the story. I’ve learned a lot about life, death and all the things in between by following the blog.

He published a post recently that got me thinking about business and growing a business and growing in life. He titled the post, Sowing Seeds.

His wife Joey loves working in the garden every summer season. She starts the entire process in January and goes all the way through to harvest and canning and it’s really a year-round process.

Now, of course, Joey and Rory know that Joey won’t be able to anymore. Joey, however, wants to make sure that her family can continue with the gardening. And her family wants to.

That involves the sharing of information and Joey is sharing all the details on how she produces a successful garden each season. She trusts that her husband and family can take that information and make it successful for generations to come.

When it comes to your small business, a big part of getting the business to grow is to take yourself out of the equation. Large companies don’t depend on one individual because it’s impossible for one individual to operate and grow a business.

Imagine that you’re dying. I guess we’re all dying, but imagine that you don’t have long to live. But you still want your business to live on.

Chances are that you would start furiously detailing the process you do to operate your business. You’ll start documenting notes so that someone, or multiple people, can take those notes and do what you did.

Thats’s a key to growing a business. You have to allow others to do the work. They have to do the operations. They have to grow the business.


Oftentimes it’s our own fault that our business doesn’t grow. And it can be fine. There’s nothing wrong with operating a small business. It can provide a great life. But if you want to grow your company it’s about getting out of your own way and allowing others to succeed in something that you’ve been doing. I’m not saying it’s easy to do or to figure out, but if you can do it you’ll often see your business grow and succeed. There may be bumps on the way, but if you provide the roadmap and allow others to succeed you might be surprised at where your company can go.

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