This week I drafted a blog post about how to deal with a quickly growing business.
I was trying to figure out whether to take several new clients that want to hire us, knowing full well that would mean choosing to grow the client side of my business rather than our own brands.
While I enjoy working with clients because it’s challenging and helps my team and me learn, I know the better way to reach my long-term goals is to invest in my own work, growing both this site and The Write Life. Not only is there huge financial potential in offering digital products to our communities, but building our own sites means more freedom in the long run.
So I was trying to decide whether to work with these potential clients, using the process of writing to organize and think through my ideas. But I kept waiting to press publish on the post because I knew it wasn’t good enough. It offered too many questions and not enough answers, a reflection of what was going on in my head.
Then I saw something in my own backyard that set off the light bulb — and made me scratch that blog post and start over.
What I saw was a tomato plant, one I’d rooted into the soil just a couple of months ago. During a break from writing the blog post, I walked out onto our patio to see the progress in our garden. And wow, has this tomato plant grown. It has grown taller than I thought tomato plants were supposed to grow, far surpassing the tomato plants beside it, and now looks more like Jack’s beanstalk. As you can see in this photo, it’s growing up and over the fence!
But here’s the thing: the plant hasn’t produced any tomatoes. The plants beside it are smaller, but they’re already boasting small green tomatoes, ones I imagine will grow ripe and red by the end of the summer.
And I thought, what good is a tomato plant if it doesn’t produce any tomatoes? Who cares how tall it gets if it never produces beautiful ripe fruit, never reaches the true goal of the plant, the whole reason I planted it to begin with?
And BOOM, it hit me: that’s my business.
We get a lot of requests from people who want to hire us for content marketing, which gives us the opportunity to grow quickly if we want to. But what good is a quickly growing business if it doesn’t yield quality fruit? Not to say client work isn’t ripe and lovely and even fun, but it’s not helping me reach my end goal: complete freedom to choose where, when and how I work and live.
Scaling a business isn’t what I set out to do when I started this lifestyle company. Sometimes our goals change, and that’s OK. But the key is ensuring we make decisions because our goals have truly changed, not because we’re lured by the fast-growing beanstalk.
You could argue that beanstalk will produce tomatoes over time — I’m hoping the one in my backyard does just that! — and that’s the approach some quickly growing startups take. But I’m in this for quality, not quantity. For the challenge and the freedom. For the tomatoes, not the beanstalk.
When you take the time to remind yourself of your true goals, it’s easier to move in the right direction.