Why we aren’t slaves to growth

A couple of years ago a CEO of another company called (we’ll call him John) and said he’d like to partner with us. He told me his company has 20,000 restaurant customers and he said he could get us connected with them and help us get from the 4,000 customers we had at the time to 20,000 customers. I said “Thanks, but no thanks” like we do every time we get a call like this. John said, “But don’t you want to grow faster?” and I said, “No, we don’t.” He was silent for a significant number of seconds and then said, “Well, please give it some thought. I don’t understand why you wouldn’t want to get to 20,000 faster,” to which I replied, “John, I don’t know if we even want to get to 20,000 at all.”

After an extended awkward silence, the call ended. I laughed, and my guess is he sat at his desk and thought we are clueless. But you see, John is a slave to growth. Business is about one thing: growing. Companies that have somebody with the “CEO” title have a team of executives, all with 3-letter titles, and their collective job is to figure out how to grow. Us? We’re just five dudes trying to build a great business by focusing on taking great care of the customers we have and on maintaining a sense of balance in our lives, letting any growth that occurs occur naturally.

Don’t get me wrong, we’ve been thrilled to add about 1,000 more customers than we lose each year. We have around 5,700 customers right now, and we can pretty accurately predict that we’ll hit 6,000 in April/May. And then 7,000 by April/May 2017. And 8,000 by April/May 2018. And so on. Or at least that’s been the trend for a few years now. We can manage that level of growth pretty darn well without having to add people and processes and the things that come with rapid growth.

Anyway, maybe we’ll level off by starting to lose as many customers as we gain per year. Or maybe we’ll get to 20,000 naturally with this crew of five guys, and still be incredibly easy to do business with, offer amazing, personable customer support, and keep our business simple. We have no clue what will happen, but we darn sure don’t want to add the complexity of a partnership to try to get there. Heck, we’re more apt slow our growth to ensure we keep control of the things that matter to us than we are to try to accelerate it.

We don’t want to be slaves to growth. We want to be its master.