GO BIG by getting small

Growth, a buzzword we all hear these days. We see it as a hashtag on Instagram with 9.2 million posts and counting, and a topic of blog posts on LinkedIn.

Businesses, both private and public, are obsessed with growth. Some social media influencers like to say things like “if you’re not growing, you’re dying”. So, what’s the deal with growth?

As a CEO of a marketing firm, growth is something of which I am acutely aware. But I want to share with you some things that most guys like me would never admit. Why would I do this? Well, I’m tired of the Instagram and Facebook “CEO’s” who have no idea how to run a business, let alone grow. Plus, I want you to learn and actually grow.

When I started my business in 2009, I had visions of a massive company. My visions were not crystallized, but I knew I just wanted to be BIG. I wanted lots of people at my business. At one point, I had close to 200 employees working for me. Looking back at my thought process, I’ve realized it was a flawed way to think. Physical size doesn’t necessarily equal growth. In fact, it could actually put you out of business, and it almost did for me.

Depending on your business, you may need a lot of people. That’s a good thing for people looking for work. However, don’t grow just to grow. Over the years, I’ve gone from 200 to 25 employees, and we have grown. Laying people off or eliminating positions isn’t a pleasant experience for anybody involved.  My mistake of going big physically was due to my naïve perceptions of what growth had to look like.

Staying small as long as you can will actually help you to grow. Find ways to leverage your existing staff and technologies to become more efficient. When I laid people off over the years, or outsourced some of our work, I found that my core employees had skills I never even knew they had. It’s amazing what people can do when given the opportunity.

This doesn’t mean ride your people harder.  This means give people more opportunities to show and apply their skills to help the business and themselves grow by adding more value.  I have found, and many studies confirm, that giving people more responsibility and options to add more value is more important to many than increased compensation.

What about sales and marketing?

In my book 5% More, I show how you can grow any area of your business by taking baby steps. Too many businesses go too big too fast. One of the best ways to grow your sales numbers and marketing initiatives is to leverage the power of compounding.

Did you know that if you saved a penny a day, then compounded on the previous amount each and every day, you would have 5.3 million at the end of the month? Yeah, I know it sounds crazy. I’m a lawyer by trade for a reason. Math isn’t my strong suit. But the math is the math, and it adds up. Just Google it.

So, rather than setting unrealistic goals for your business or your sales and marketing division or yourself, set achievable goals and compound on them daily, weekly, monthly, and watch your business grow in ways you didn’t think possible.  This simple idea of breaking things down into micro goals will allow you and your team to digest the macro goals.

Growth is a term that you need to define for your business. Is it revenue? Is it profit? Is it efficiency? Is it physical size? I would advise anyone looking to grow that it is a combination of the first three. Physical size does not equal growth. Don’t be persuaded by memes on Instagram or social media CEO’s.  Take stock in what makes sense for you and your business.


Michael Alden, a graduate of Suffolk Law School and a three-time Wall Street Journal and USA Today Best Seller, is from Beverly, MA.  He has contributed to Forbes, Huffington Post, CNBC and, Entrepreneur, and was awarded Boston’s 40 Under 40 Award.  To learn more about Michael Alden, visit www.michael-alden.com.  You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat @MikeAlden2012