Big is better, more is better. That is the message we hear, that is what we experience in this culture. Big buildings, big businesses, big houses, more money, more stuff. All of it makes you better, makes you happier and more successful. But it doesn’t. We know that. When we dive into what truly makes us happy – it isn’t any of that. Yet, I didn’t realize how sneaky this message was until recently. First let me back up a bit.
Many years ago I was planning an event with a group of small business owners. One of the members wrote on the flyer that we were small business owners. It fired up a heated discussion as some people in the group strongly agreed that naming ourselves small business owners made us sound…small. (I’m not kidding; someone said that, but stick with me here). I sat through the discussion, easily influenced by my peers (I was young), and it sank in for me, small is bad. I didn’t argue it at the time. What did I know? We had just opened our real estate brokerage and it was me, my husband, an assistant and one agent. Four of us. We were happy, incredibly busy and overwhelmed, but happy. Before starting our own firm I had the experience of working on my own (within a big company) and I didn’t like it. It lacked a team feeling and it just didn’t work for me. After learning about the team concept I knew it was the right fit for me. I was finding my way and taking notes.
Over the years our company has grown. We got really big – there were a total of 10 of us at one point! I know, that’s HUGE! (Insert smiley face). We opened a second office and we continued to grow in size. I felt like that is what we ‘should’ be doing. And that if I was really doing it right the focus needed to be on growth. Throughout the past years I’ve had many people congratulate me on our success and the growth of our company. It was wonderful. I loved it. And it confirmed my perception unconsciously that big is better.
Then one day I realized that I didn’t want to grow the business bigger. As I thought more about owning a successful business and I visualized what that looked like and more importantly – what it FELT like – I sensed an alignment with the business being small. I could feel a shift inside that felt right. I had been pushing for something that wasn’t in alignment with my highest good. Being conscious has helped me to create a perfect size/feeling for our company. Not too big and not too small. FOR ME! For my husband. For our family. The coolest thing about this is when we are clear about creating the right environment for us we attract the right people. We are able to best serve our clients. Because of that clarity we are not caught up in trying to be something we aren’t or apologizing for something we aren’t and that authenticity feels good to the people we work with.
This past year we closed one of our offices. OMG! We closed an office. That screams trouble. That means things are terrible if we are closing an office; business must be bad. These things tumbled through my mind a bit, yet as a business owner who was getting pretty clear (and let’s say smarter!), it didn’t make sense for our team to have two offices. We didn’t want two offices anymore. A lender that I know asked me why I would limit myself like that. I told him that in creating the business that works for us, I’m actually opening doors to opportunities that will take me to the next level.
I still get anxious about the community’s perception. We live in a culture where BIG is better. Even though now I’m clear and confident and I can stand tall in it, there are times that I worry about what people think. I’m human. I have vulnerable moments. They pass more quickly now and I’m grateful for that.
My definition of a successful life doesn’t include owning a big business. My definition is different than yours. It might not be super different, it might be wildly different. Big vs small. Success vs failure. Good vs bad. Judgment. The voices of our culture, of society.
In the meantime I’m dreaming about the life I want to live. I’m creating this ideal life and expanding it through practicing in the present and visualizing my dreams for the future. I’m sizing my business to fit a life that I desire.
Recently I sat in an audience of entrepreneurs and we listened to the speaker encourage us to grow our businesses, to think big, to expand. I was agitated, to say the least. Business owners have a shit ton of pressure. Period. We don’t need more pressure to be something that might not be the best for us. He used examples of local businesses that started small and grew to be huge and amazing. That is great for them. And perhaps it was inspiring to the person sitting next to me, but don’t put me in that box. He challenged us to keep growing.
I am always growing. I’m always growing ME. And that means that I might choose to not grow my business. What would it have been like for the presenter to talk about the great companies out there that are big and small? We know big companies that have failed and we know small companies that have failed. Size doesn’t have to be a bench marker to success. A successful business takes care of its clients and its employees with excellence and integrity.
Imagine if the message was about a successful business, any size, which performs beautifully for everyone it serves.
Imagine if the message was about living our purpose. That living to our highest potential could include a small business or a big business. It could include a side business. It can be whatever you dream it to be. It might take years to get there and along the way you might change your mind. That’s cool. Listen to your heart. It so totally knows. And if something is off, and you feel it, get back on track of what your heart is telling you. When I’m heart centered I enjoy where I’m at right now. If I’m not where I dream to be, I can still enjoy the dream I’ve created thus far. That is living the journey with joy.
Is the first step to change the message out there? Or do we need to first figure out for ourselves what feels right and then stand up tall in that? I was finally able to do that but it took time and self-reflection. Now when someone tries to push me down by telling me I’m limiting myself by closing an office I don’t second guess myself. And I can eloquently (with a bit of fire of course) challenge them to think about the definition of success as a personal pursuit and not defined by the size of my company. I can challenge the belief that big is better.
I love our small business. And I love everyone for doing what they love. Just be who you are meant to be. I won’t judge and hopefully you’ll find that the right people around you aren’t judging you either. If they are, let me know, because I’ve got your back.