The Two Types of Scaling

scaling up and down

If you want to build and operate a small business based on some work you are familiar with, then you don’t have to worry about scaling up. Working on a small scale is perfectly fine. It’s in fact, preferable, for so many business people and entrepreneurs. You get the following benefits compared to an operation that is of larger scale:

  • Little to no hassles
  • Less overhead
  • Less management responsibilities and layers
  • More control
  • Agility

I happen to like small scale. You have the gift of maneuvering and experimentation that is not quite so easy at much larger scales. And many times, I have taken business owners into that journey of scaling down. It’s liberating in so many ways. There’s often less risk, more breathability and greater freedom. It’s a process of subtraction, rather than addition. Asking the question of how to minimize and do without can be counterintuitive for someone used to adding more horsepower, manpower or other avenue for resources.

However, small scale can also be wanting. The trade-offs compared to scaling up are:

  • Less money
  • Less prominence
  • Less excitement
  • Less leverage

There are plenty of reasons to want more and scale up. And that is even a more difficult journey in many ways. Things work easier on a small scale, often times. Your people problems or business decisions may have consequences, but they have a smaller impact.

Bigger operations and scale tend to magnify the problems. You get more benefit with more hassle. And going through that change process of building alignment with people, processes, systems and infrastructure takes much more time to take root. Scaling up needs a strong vision behind it because of the inherent problems. You can’t simply turn on a light switch and make a large scale operation happen easily.

Otherwise, a lot of small service people could build an Uber or Starbucks. You might be able to create a small ride sharing program or a boutique coffee shop. But scaling to tens of thousands has problems you may see along with many you cannot even anticipate.

The work of scaling up or scaling down has failure points to each. If you’re like most people, you want something more and different than you have now.

Have you thought about which direction you want to go? What are the obstacles you think will be in your path?

Published by Don Dalrymple

I partner with founders and entrepreneurs in startup businesses. I write and consult on strategy, systems, team building and growing revenue.

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