Scale Like an Investor to Mess Up Your Life

Mind if I brag a little bit?

Recently a friend invited me to an evening business event. I declined because of a family commitment. With sincerity, he asked how after three decades of marriage my wife still wants me home for dinner and my adult kids still want to hang out. I flippantly said because I don’t hang around with people who talk about scalability.

He asked for an explanation, so here goes.scalability

Investors worry about scalability because they need to generate returns. There can be other reasons; you make a real difference if you open 1000 pizzerias versus just one corner pizzeria (jobs, tax revenues, profits, etc.), but generally success is defined by return on investment. Plus an investor is passive. Perhaps they offer wisdom, but they are more or less just a wise ATM.

I’m not really an investor but instead a business owner. I’m in it for the long term. Thus I operate with a different set of values, a different definition of success, and a different perspective on scalability.

For instance, a good business owner sets down roots and says, “This is my corner pizzeria and I am now part of the community.” He or she would be thrilled to someday have 1000 franchises, but they first want to be rooted in their community. Go deep first, then scale (go wide).

A lot of entrepreneurs miss this. They want to change the world but don’t know their neighbor. They want to be first to market but can’t find time to volunteer for their kids’ events. They slowly fall in love with their vocation instead of their spouse.

Sadly, it’s not really an either/or decision. Capital can be used to go deep and wide. Both are needed and should be valued. But you have to go deep first, and that’s what a lot of people in business miss.

So you want to know why my family still likes having me around? Because I never became enamored with scale. I worked at keeping the values of the company the same as the values of my family. We embraced community, honesty, and balance. Yes, I mess up sometimes; so does my company. Sorry about that. But we know what we’re aiming for, and have generally done well.

The funny thing is investors would call me a low performer because their gauge for success is different. But other than a few family members, there is nobody to make the misguided accusation. And my family shares my values.

Which allows me to focus on the things that really matter. Like being home to have dinner with my wife, swapping texts with my daughter, and having a beer with my son. It is a luxury I relish, but one I worked for.

Now that’s true business success. And worth bragging about.


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