The following is adapted from Life Profitability.
How do you define success? As an entrepreneur, your inclination may be to refer to Key Performance Indicators (KPI) and say something like, “As long as we’re growing, we’re good.”
But, when is good enough...enough?
It’s far more profitable for you, your team, and your community to create a company that does not define success solely based on growth. By rejecting “infinite growth” and “growth at all costs,” an entrepreneur distributes opportunity more evenly. Quite honestly, the blanket idea that bigger is always better can, in some instances, be an outright fallacy.
Mass and vast farming jumps to mind, with food traveling great distances, massive swaths of land subdued to generate profits, resources artificially diverted to service them, small farmers driven out, lack of crop diversity, detriment to wildlife and climate—when we add up the costs, economies of scale are revealed as a woefully incomplete function. No matter the harvest, if you look at the larger picture in the macrocosm of the world or the microcosm of your community—if the costs cause harm, they are not life-profitable.
In light of that, you must ask yourself if growing your businesses beyond a certain point is the best goal for your life and the lives of others your business touches. What would be growth enough for a healthy business that produces abundance without harm?
You must define a measurement of what is “good enough.” Without this measuring stick, a life profitable business is not possible, because you’re running the never-ending marathon for financial excess while suffering enormous life losses.
Ask yourself what growth revenues are acceptable if they can at least achieve a viable and successful, life-profitable business. The answer to this question will not produce immediate returns. Rather, the final answer involves a series of decisions and actions to be made over several weeks or months. Start the process by asking yourself some questions:
Depending on you, your team, and your business, you may have different questions to face. Think deeply and develop thoughtful answers to them and a definition of good enough should begin to form and most likely clarify.
Keep in mind that “good enough” is something that shifts regularly, if not consistently, based on your circumstances, experiences, and needs. Before I had kids, for example, my perspective on “good enough” was wildly different.
For you, it may be a case of an elderly parent becoming sick, and you deciding you can’t invest in your business as much as you used to. In that scenario, less is good enough. Or maybe you fall out of love with the business; your new passion is a hobby that you’ve found. If the business has a team running it, what they can do without you could be “good enough” to sustain your life and the business.
In the larger scheme of things, “good enough” must involve value and establish boundaries.
Values include consideration of time, people, and costs. “Good enough,” then, can may involve imposing time boundaries, choosing the kind of people you work with and the things you’re willing to do. It causes you to create limits that respect the other people affected by your actions. Reaching the “good enough,” then, allows you to live from your real values, which set your boundaries and keep you steady on the path to your sustainable life.
Operating according to good enough creates space to look at your life in a larger context. Good enough reveals the characteristics of your rich life. All these values and characteristics provide a framework to think about larger issues such as legacy, contribution, how business can serve those, and how business cannot serve those. “Good enough” profits your larger life through such insights. It profits the whole of you.
When you weigh your actions for good or bad, the whole must be part of the reckoning. Life profitability is a fiduciary responsibility between you and your life that has a sustainable outcome and conscience-saving measures. In living out “good enough,” your values become omnipresent.
Your values and boundaries become measurement tools with which you weigh policies, decisions, and actions. Values also serve as feedback, measuring how close you come to living them out. In this way, they serve as an oracle. If you ask your clearly defined and relevant values, “Should I do this?” they can give you the answer and tell you why. If you can’t figure out a course of action yet, values can say, “Well, you know all these other paths are off the table. What’s left?” Values, in this way, make concrete boundaries.
Applying values and their attendant boundaries ensures that, as you create something of business value in the world, you also create life-serving values. The more you—the entrepreneur—throw your pebbles into the lake, the greater the impact will be on society as a whole.
Good enough in a life profitable business means you are a life entrepreneur, and you touch the wider world. You must think holistically, not just about your business scope, but about how you impact the world.