Starting a business. This concept, to many, is the definition of the American Dream. But not every dream is the same. For some, it is the opportunity to continually grow and get bigger, to open new offices/locations, hire more employees, and increase revenue. For others, it is to create a product or service, sell that product or service, and then move on to the next endeavor. And for others, it is the ability to create purpose through our work, to be in control of your schedule, and to attain a balance which allows for higher profitability, personal fulfillment, and living your life’s values.
The last type of business I have described has been labeled as a solo or micro business, or a business which typically has gross revenues <$500k and employees 5 or fewer employees. The term itself might not be very endearing, but the concept speaks to many. The Small Business Administration (SBA) lists a small business as having less than 500 employees. 500! When people use the term ‘small business’, obviously based on the above definition this can have different meaning to different people. Solo/Micro-businesses, or those with 5 or fewer employees, accounted for 56% of all small businesses according to the US Census Bureau in 2014.
To be fair, not all businesses labeled as solo/micro-businesses plan to stay that way, but many do. The allure of staying small has many benefits, and those who choose to stay small should not be ashamed of this decision, but rather should embrace this choice. Yes, you wear many (if not all) hats. It may be difficult to completely step away, particularly for solos, and ultimately we are responsible for both the successes and the issues which arise in our businesses. But isn’t this something to be celebrated? You are the face of your business and you control your image and reputation by your actions and approach. Your relationships with your clients or customers are deeper and more personal, allowing you to view them as more than just consumers. Your ability to remain nimble in the ever changing world helps you adapt and provide superior customer service that most large firms cannot replicate.
For those who choose to remain small, you are able to align your values with your work, and allocate time based on what is most important. You love being able to pick up our kids from school, even if that means you need to work until midnight once the kids are asleep. You understand that although you may work 50-60 hours a week, (most of the time) work does not feel like work. You can see the progress you are making, the impact you are having with your clients/customers and with your community, and how every decision benefits you in the pursuit of both professional and personal fulfillment.
Running a deliberate solo/micro business should not be construed as ‘lazy’ either, as many would love to label. Staying small allows for more intentional growth, and by outsourcing tasks or leveraging technology you are able to achieve profit margins that just aren’t as attainable when you have a large staff and high overhead expenses. You prefer to manage your business and your relationships as opposed to employees.
I’m not saying that trying to build an enterprise business or multi-vet practice is wrong, or that those who do strive for exponential growth are not able to achieve many of the things listed above, but starting and growing a business or practice with the intentionality to remain small and realize your dream is an admirable ambition. No, you may not end up on the national ‘Top 10’ lists for veterinary clinics or be the next investor to guest star on Shark Tank, but you should take great pride in your work and be convinced that the life and business you’ve created is worthy of praise.
Andrew Langdon is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and the founder of VetWorth, a fiduciary fee-only financial planning firm dedicated to serving the unique needs of veterinarians and their families.
Disclaimer: This article is provided for general information and illustration purposes only. Nothing contained in the material constitutes tax advice, a recommendation for purchase or sale of any security, or investment advisory services. I encourage you to consult a financial planner, accountant, and/or legal counsel for advice specific to your situation. Reproduction of this material is prohibited without written permission from Andrew Langdon, and all rights are reserved. Read the full Disclaimer.