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Why you Should NOT Grow Your Agency of 1

Why you Should NOT Grow Your Agency of 1

If you are a freelancer or 1 person agency looking to expand your business, there are many things to consider before growing. In a training done by Whole Whale for Nonprofit.ist members about how to grow from 1 to many employees, George Weiner started with why this might not be a good idea. Full training available for members ;) 

As a business owner, you may have started out as the only person in your company. But you already know that if your business is going to be “successful”, you can’t stay alone. Right? In order to grow an hours-for-dollars/fee-for-service business, growing means scaling a team of people, and with it comes new challenges and opportunities. 

We put “‘s around successful because this is a subjective concept defined and measured by you alone. There are countless 1 person organizations that are happy never growing and working at a cadence/risk-level that makes sense.

Beyond challenging the concept of success there are several other reasons why growing your business beyond one person might not be advised. 

First off, shit flows uphill - meaning no matter the size or scope of your business, you will inevitably get all client problems at some point. As the leader of a larger company all responsibility eventually rests on your shoulders - which can put different kinds of pressure on both you and those around you. 

Second, running a company can feel lonely and thankless if no one else is undertaking the same tasks or feeling sympathetic for all your hard work. Leaders can also suffer from lack of external feedback from people who may have valuable insight into decisions or processes that could help improve outcomes in some way shape or form. 

Thirdly, people are complicated and this increases geometrically, not linearly. Increases in both employees and clients bring greater expectations. With more people interacting there is inevitably increased drama, which is why you rarely see one-person reality tv shows. 

Finally, assuming you are building you business in the nonprofit sector, you have chosen the wrong industry to make a ton of money.  Though it’s not impossible to create a lucrative business with one person at its core - it is rare. Increasing the number of employees only guarantees that your expense rate increases, not revenue. 

It is also important to question your motivation for wanting to grow your company. Starting with the wrong motivation might trick you into thinking you have the right energy for meeting the many challenges that come with growth. Let’s go over four bad motivators we thought of: 

1. You are comparing yourself to others.

It is hard to resist the urge to compare yourself with other organizations, especially when we look up to them and admire what they have built. But always remember that you have a different mission, different goals and different resources.

2. You want to tell people you own your own company with x employees. 
When it comes down to it, the reason for growing your organization beyond one person should come from within. It shouldn’t be motivated by what other people think or want you want your mom to brag about. While your work can be meaningful and inspiring, it should still be enjoyable and worthwhile for you. 

3. You don’t want a boss. 
While it is true that as the CEO you don't technically report to anyone, remember problems flow up to you. Also, there will still be clients that can feel like a boss. As the saying goes, show me someone without a boss and I'll show you a liar :P 

4. You want to work remotely and being a CEO would let you make the rules. 
Spoiler alert, most jobs let you work remotely and have a team. So, growing a company that is remote-friendly is a much tougher way to achieve this. 

If you decide not to grow beyond one person or decide to take a slower and more sustainable growth that can be just as valid and fun a decision. There are immense benefits to being the only person in your organization. And before making decisions that impact you and your team, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons.