Be Bigger: Lessons from The Big Enough Company

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By Adelaide Lancaster and Amy Abrams (Founders, In Good Company)

The blank canvas. When you start your own business you have the opportunity to do, create and decide whatever you want. That’s the most exciting (although sometimes scary) part of entrepreneurship.

This all leads to a tremendous and inspiring amount of diversity in the world of business. Not only does each entrepreneur have unique motivations but they also have different desired purposes, outcomes and goals. Each of us approaches entrepreneurship with a distinct philosophy and idea of what we must get in exchange for what we invest.

But this diversity also makes it challenging. Challenging to get advice, confirmation, and good feedback.

While best practices (delegation, experimentation, setting boundaries) can apply to almost anyone, certain kinds of know-how — like how to best grow your company — do not. That’s why we wrote The Big Enough Company to help entrepreneurs explore just how well their business works for them. The book challenges readers to examine if their business meets their goals, explore their level of satisfaction with choices they’ve made, and encourages the possibility and importance building a business that meets their needs.

The startup mythology convinces many entrepreneurs that it’s the early days that are tough. But the truth is that it’s the growing that’s hardest. There are so many options and possible directions, some game-changing, some deadly, some that just sabotage you personally. A place where a lot of entrepreneurs get tripped up is in the belief that bigger is always better. This belief is particularly easy to embrace in the tech world where the economies of scale necessitate a large number of users/eyeballs/clicks/or followers and where storied sale prices and big dollar investments abound.

We interviewed nearly 100 entrepreneurs while writing our book and most mentioned their struggle with the default pressure to grow and their challenge in identifying the right, sensible and most rewarding size for them. Some however, told their story differently. For them, their specific goal (not an arbitrary mandate) necessitated scale.

Only by being bigger would these entrepreneurs have the kind of impact they strived for. Opportunities were always evaluated by the number of people they reached and doors they opened.

Several of these businesses were tech businesses, not for some innate love of technology, but because technology was the tool that allowed them to reach and impact the greatest number of people. The clarity of their goal helped to insulate them from the incessant pressure to grow and acquire and kept them focused on what mattered (for them). It made it easier to evaluate opportunities and to stay on track.

Let’s meet a few:

Meet Genevieve Theirs, founder of Sittercity, an online source for childcare, petcare, senior care, housitting and tutoring has changed the way people find qualified care by creating an online matchmaking service. The idea germinated when Genevieve was in college and she saw a very pregnant woman posting flyers to find a babysitter. It dawned on her how difficult it was to find qualified childcare outside your existing network of friends and family. Technology was the best way to facilitate this matchmaking and it has enabled Sittercity to undertake enormous growth by expanding to new care verticals and having national reach.

Meet Jessica Jackley, co-founder of ProFounder, an online crowdfunding platform that provides tools for entrepreneurs to raise investment capital from their communities. When she co-founded Kiva, Jessica launched an interactive website and portfolio system that enabled people to do participate directly in micro-financing. In her new business, she leverages a strong technological platform to empower entrepreneurs to effectively, legally and easily raise money from their communities. By increasing access to these tools, Jessica and her partner Dana are changing the experience and possibility for entrepreneurs everywhere.

Meet Tara Hunt, co-founder of Buyosphere, a tool to help you take control of your shopping history. Tara started Buyosphere because she was disturbed by the amount of information that large companies had about our shopping behavior, thanks primarily to e-commerce. Concerned about the inequity that created, Tara was determined to put consumers in control of their own purchasing data. She created a tool that puts your shopping history back in your own hands — you can link, track and store purchase information in one place that boasts robust analytics. Not only does this help raise your consumer self-awareness but gives you the opportunity to reshape your relationship with consumption.

These three entrepreneurs are wonderful examples of why bigger is better and how technology has helped them achieve the impact they desire. As you consider your own business growth options, we encourage you to take advantage of the most valuable opportunity of entrepreneurship -– that is to build a business that meets your needs and goals.

Want to learn more? Purchase a copy of The Big Enough Company: Creating a Business that Works for You. From August 8 through August 14, participate in The Big Enough Company Business Makeover Contest –- one lucky winner will receive over 8 hours of business-changing advice from 9 leading experts.

About the guest bloggers: Adelaide Lancaster and Amy Abrams are Founders of In Good Company, a community, business learning center and collaborative workspace for women business owners in New York City. In addition to their entrepreneurial ventures, they also work as consultants and business advisors. Their work has been featured in The New York Times and on MSNBC. They are also the authors of The Big Enough Company: Creating a Business that Works for You.