Many small business owners have dreams of rapid growth; that point when your product or service takes off and your profits soar. Perhaps you fantasize about becoming a millionaire, the next Facebook, or THE name that comes to mind when your industry is mentioned.
These are the types of goals that we most often associate with ‘rapid growth.’
However, according to my latest interview guest Matthew Pollard, for many small business owners, the definition of ‘rapid growth’ is not always what we picture in our heads. Matthew is the executive director of Small Business Festival and known globally as the Rapid Growth Guy. When I saw him at SXSW 2017, we sat down to discuss the topic of rapid growth: what it is and how to make it happen.
The ‘Rapid Growth’ Definition: Personal and Evolving
In the interview, Matthew shares an example that shows how rapid growth may not be what you expect.
He tells us of a client he worked with, a ghostwriter out of Louisiana who was struggling to make his meager income larger and more consistent. The ghostwriter’s original ‘rapid growth’ goal was to grow his business to ten staff members, get more book writing assignments, and make a million dollars.
If this sort of lofty goal sounds familiar to you, you will be amazed at what unfolds next.
Matthew asked him to start with his independence goals first: the dollar figure that would comfortably pay his bills. With a couple $40K deals, the ghostwriter was able to reach this goal by the end of the year when he grossed $120K.
So Matthew asked him about his goals once again: “Do you still want to have a ten staff?”
“God no!” replied the ghostwriter.
That would mean extra risk and having to constantly check in on everyone. He said he’d rather spend more time with his kids. He settled on a new independence goal of $150K, with a long-term goal of opening up a bookshop.
The ghostwriter made $300K that next year. When he reached the $150K level, Matthew revisited the latest long-term goal: “Do you still want to open a bookshop?”
“Oh gosh no!” replied the ghostwriter.
He had been traveling the world with his family, working on massive ghostwriting projects. A bookshop would interfere because he’d have to constantly return home to check on it.
The moral of the story?
The ghostwriter did, in fact, experience rapid growth, but the definition and goals that surrounded it changed over time. In that time, the ghostwriter narrowed into what really mattered to him. The closer he got to it, the more he realized that his happiness was not tied to the lofty goals he originally associated with rapid growth.
Defining Your Own Goals: An Exercise
Matthew says the problem is that most of us don’t really know what we want. We hear goals that sound cool and charge at them, but they aren’t actually important to us. He advises small business owners to try this exercise:
- Step 1: Write down three business goals, three personal goals, and one goal that is purely selfish.
- Step 2: Now go back and write them each in 250 words or less, including why they are important to you.
Step 2 is difficult because we often struggle to express why each goal is important to us, and then we realize those goals aren’t actually important to us. But by going through the exercise, you can pinpoint your true goals and why. Then you can build a unified message around your business that sets you up for the rapid growth needed to reach your personal goals.