Lifestyle or growth? When starting a business, the excitement of creating something from scratch, the often painful process of learning the ropes as you go and the worries about how to pay for everything, rarely leaves time for considering whether the business you just created will result in a comfortable future for you and your family or a runaway success, which builds into a high growth company.
In the first of a series, successful Entrepreneur Garry Diver shares his thoughts – Lifestyle or Growth.
In the first couple of years, it really doesn’t matter what your expectations are regarding growth, you just do what you have to get to the next step; your first employee, first profitable month, a profitable year and ‘yippee’ congratulations from the Bank Manager.
There is a point however, by accident or design, when you will have to make the choice.
Now, admittedly for many, the choice will be made by accident or external circumstances. And the majority of small businesses stay that way providing a good living for the owners. There does reach a point though where it is time to ask yourself the question ‘what do I want to achieve with this business’.
There have been some who were so confident that they would be the next Facebook or Amazon that in the first year they were planning which corporate jet they should buy! No, really, I’ve met people like that, who were yet to make a profit but already spending it.
Lifestyle or Growth
The reality is that most small businesses will stay that way, but still be considered successful. For some though, the chance might arise where your product or service attracts the attention of investors who are willing to fund your growth plans, for a significant share of the profits of course, and help deliver that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Bringing in Venture Capital is not for the faint hearted. Forget what you see on Dragon’s Den in the UK and Shark Tank in the US. These are entertainment shows and not how it works in the real world. It is a long (6 to 12 month) process which will dominate your life and have you questioning your sanity even if you are successful. I’ll cover this in a separate article, but sufficient to say that it works only for a few and, sadly for some, results in them losing control of their business.
On the other hand, if you can build a solid business, grow modestly, employ a small team and generate enough profits to top up your pension pot each year, have decent holidays and enjoy life, what’s not to love. Staying small enough to control events, be profitable and grow the team you enjoy working with has a lot going for it. Most small businesses which grow into successful owner managed mid-sized concerns don’t start out with a grand plan. They just get on with the job of growing there customer base, offering good service and building a loyal employee team. It’s not rocket science.
So, before you worry about which direction to go in, do what comes naturally. Build the business, concentrate on the fundamentals and sooner or later the opportunity will appear when you might need to make the decision. If it does, good for you. If not, and after 20 years you retire with a fully topped up pension and set sail into the sunset, don’t think twice about Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates. They have their own problems too.
Thank you to Garry Diver for providing his Expert Opinion
Garry Diver is the epitome of a serial entrepreneur with investments in over 20 early stage companies. He is currently Chairman and CEO of Ultimedia, a full service software and consulting company, based in Stockport.
Garry started his career in the then fledgling computer industry and after a number of years, moved into a management role ending up as Director, Operations EMEA for American Express Co. He then joined a Middle East owned multinational, initially running a Kuwait based computer services company before moving to the US to run a portfolio building company in Texas. During this time he was involved in the venture capital arm of the same company, advising on technology start ups.
Following a short period running his own computer services company he advised a VC firm on another early stage company subsequently taking over as CEO, growing and positioning the firm for a sale.
For the next 20 years he held executive, mainly CEO, positions in a number of start up and early stage technology companies as a turnaround specialist. During this period he was retained by various venture capital firms to take over and run portfolio companies with an emphasis on restructuring. As part of the turnaround process he positioned the sale of companies to Microsoft, Rockwell and FMC Corp.
Garry returned to the UK in 2004 to become Chief Operating Officer for City Asset Management, a London based asset management firm and in 2009 joined Ultimedia as CEO and Investor. Garry divides his time between the UK and his home in Atlanta GA.