Do Businesses Need to Grow to Progress?

Written by Tom Greenwood - July 14, 2017

There’s an assumption in business and economics that growth is always good. In fact not only is it good, but it’s one of the key measures of success and is essential to long term survival. The narrative goes that to be successful in business we need more revenue, more clients, more profit and more employees, otherwise we might stagnate or even worse, decline.

It says a lot that the words we use to describe the absence of growth are negative. I’ve always had a very different philosophy in the way that I’ve run our business over the past 10 years, rejecting the ideology of growth for growth’s sake in favour of trying to build a business that is healthy and sustainable. It isn’t that I think that growth is inherently bad, but I don’t think that it’s inherently good either. In its best cases, growth enables organisms of all kinds to progress and flourish, but when uncontrolled, growth can become an unsustainable cancer. The impact of growth is therefore highly dependent on context.

Why then have I resisted growth?

For much of the past few years, I’ve actively resisted the growth of our business simply because I have not been able to justify it rationally. We’re lucky that we have consistently had the offer of more work than we could take on, and therefore, a strong pressure to grow. However, instead of letting these forces naturally drive our growth, or actively trying to drive growth, I’ve regularly asked myself the following questions:

  1. Will it make our business more sustainable?
  2. Will it make our clients happier?
  3. Will it make our team happier?

By honestly answering these questions, we’ve found that at times it makes sense to grow a little bit, but often it makes more sense to resist growing, even if it means turning down significant amounts of work and revenue. We have grown, but slowly, and on our own terms.

As Managing Director, turning down business and actively throttling growth is heresy.  If I was running a company owned by outside investors then I no doubt would have been fired by now.  Luckily though, we have never taken on any outside investment and so we can do what we like and I’m pleased to say that 10 years down the line we continue to have a business with strong financial and environmental sustainability and a wonderful group of happy team members and clients.  It hasn’t been without its challenges, but I’m happy with where we are.

So why are we recruiting?

The astute observer considering this will now be wondering why we have a Work With Us page on our website?

The answer is simple. By keeping our clients happy, we have an ever-growing volume of ongoing work to do for our existing clients. And as that volume grows, we need to expand slightly to ensure that we can continue to give them the personal service that they deserve, and continue to make them happy. At the same time, there are sometimes new clients that we’re really excited to work with, and having the capacity to take on the most positive and exciting of those, even if only a small number, helps make us happy as a team. In addition, happy clients and a happy team are the foundations of a sustainable business and so some controlled growth in 2017 seems to be the right thing to do.

To make this growth successful, we’re not only focused on specific strategic new roles, but finding the right people for those roles, even if it takes us longer. My experience has shown that recruitment needs to be approached with a long term perspective, and that it’s better to not hire anyone than to hire a person who isn’t ideal for the role, or who doesn’t align with the values and culture of our business.

Do you want to join our positive team?

On that note, if you think that you would like to join our team, there’s never been a better time. We’re an organisation that truly puts people and planet before profit, and we have an open hiring policy, meaning that no matter who you are or what your background, we’ll review your application fairly on your own merits.  We are simply looking to see whether we think you could excel at the job and whether you embody our values of being open, positive, caring and brave.

If you think that sounds like you, take a look at the WordPress jobs currently available, or send us an email to say hi.