At a certain point, every founder comes to a crossroads.
“Is this a small business? A medium-sized business? Am I trying to build the next hundred-million user platform?”
The vast majority of companies start as small businesses–and actually, remain small businesses (since that’s the underlying foundation of our economy). And there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a small business servicing anywhere from tens to hundreds of clients.
But it’s worth asking if that’s what you want in the long term.
Most founders think of scale as “more.”
More is great, but where’s your ceiling?
The question you need to ask yourself, as a founder, is where you see your company a year, five years, ten years down the line. Do you have 100 clients? Or do you have 10,000 clients?
If you want to build a business that services 10,000 clients, or attracts hundreds of millions of users, your strategy for getting there is going to be very different than if you envisioned your company servicing 100 clients, or 50 clients, or even 10 premium clients.
The reason this question is so important is because the answer changes your growth strategy entirely.
Where so many founders go wrong is they think of scaling in terms of how their business currently operates.
But the truth is, if you are a small business and you want to build a company that services tens of thousands of people, you can’t reach that scale based on how you currently operating.
You have to change the way your machine operates in order for that end result to manifest organically.
Too many founders wait until it’s too late to pivot before trying to scale.
In many ways, entrepreneurship is a lot like starting a family.
As soon as you start accumulating too many overhead costs–house, kids, car payments, school admissions, etc.–your lifestyle begins to cement. You can’t pivot very efficiently because you need to continue putting food on the table to maintain what you’ve already built.
The same goes for a startup.
If you build your company in a way that functions with a small-business ceiling, then it’s going to become increasingly more difficult to pivot and adjust what you’ve built to support the growth trajectory required to build something much larger.
This is why it’s worth asking sooner than later, “What do I really want to build here?”
Do you want to build a profitable revenue stream that operates as a successful small business?
Or do you want to build something with massive scale?
There is no right answer. Being intentional about your answer is what’s most important.