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January 25, 2010

Sticking to your Guns – a.k.a. Staying true to your business goals

Last week in the New York Times business section I was struck by the following quote:

“ That is the American way – to expand without really thinking”
– Lydia Ezparza, co-owner of Great Lake Pizza Shop in Chicago.

The quote was take from an article, “Small by Choice, Whether Clients Like It or Not” by Kermit Pattison.

It is a great interview where the owners articulate their deliberate choice not to expand their business (as many would predict and encourage) despite their business’s booming success. I found the article incredibly refreshing as it is not that often that a small business - that wants to stay small - is showcased in national publication. I often come across stories and profiles of “successful” entrepreneurs.

These “successful” entrepreneurs are often running large companies that are venture backed. Don’t get me wrong, I completely applaud entrepreneurs who have successful grown a company through the help of financing. On the other hand, the community of entrepreneurs that I connect with on a daily basis are not interested in growing a company at light speed and often do not need outside financing.

Too often, these entrepreneurs are categorized as “lifestyle” entrepreneurs which to many (including myself) is a fairly offensive description of the type of entrepreneurship that I subscribe to. For myself, and many in the IGC community, their desire to become an entrepreneur was so that they could build a business that they would have for a long time, that they could support themselves over time and that they could scale at different points in the life cycle of the business. Many hope to make money (and for some lots of money), they want to be in control of the business and they may recognize that they want their business to mean different things at different times.

The owners of the Great Lake Pizza shop have a clear sense of their goals for the business, and they are willing to forfeit the temptation of expanding in order to achieve these goals. It is a wonderful and inspiring example for many small businesses that want to stay true to their business goals and by extent – stay small.

posted by Amy Abrams


Unknown said...

Hi Amy,

You might be interested in the book "Small Giants" by Bo Burlingham...it is on exactly this topic, "companies that choose to be great instead of big."


Amy said...

Thanks Suzanne. Funny you should mention "Small Giants" - it is my partner, Adelaide's favorite business book! Yes, a wonderful example of great small businesses!

Kelly said...

It is a shame the MSM (main stream media) seems to find fault with the concept of staying small on purpose. It's rare that long term businesses are highlighted in editorial unless they have expanded or are planning to expand.

I view smaller companies, especially those with a longer history, as very attractive options. I can usually speak to someone directly in charge who has years of experience. And I feel I will likely receive a more upfront overview of their products and services due to the nature of personal reputation at stake.

Going strong and small since 1992!

In Good Company WorkPlaces said...


Congrats! And we couldn't agree more. There should be room for both models and both models should be celebrated.

I believe that as long as the business is able to continue meeting the founders goals it is a success.

Also, it also seems worth recognizing that the challenges in building and running a business that is intended to be sustainable and long-term are quite different and no less difficult than those involved in building a fast-paced start up.