Popular perception holds that companies must always be growing or they’re dying. There’s either up or down, win or lose, success or failure. I think that’s a harmful dichotomy that leads to the death of perfectly viable companies in their quest for constant growth.
Not all companies are meant to have thousands of employees or a billion-dollar market cap. Some companies are meant to be just 10 people or 5 people or just one guy. That’s what their product, niche, or technique is capable of sustaining and there’s absolutely no shame in that. Finding your natural size should be a triumph, not a capitulation.
We haven’t found the natural size for 37signals yet, but I can tell you that it’s not a thousand people. It’s highly unlike to be a hundred. Right now it’s 10 and it’s been in that vicinity for quite some time. Our revenues have been more than doubling every year since the beginning, but that probably won’t last forever either. That’s okay too!
Chasing growth as an end in itself makes it all too easy to give up optimizing for today: “When we break 5 million dollars, we’ll start working less”, “when we’re 50 people, we’ll start giving more back to open source”. Bah. Growth begets growth and you’ll end up chasing even bigger numbers and never have the time to do what you really want.
Don’t let growth be your primary yardstick of success. You only get to celebrate breaking 5 million dollars in revenue once, taking Fridays off will make every single week a better one. Stop making excuses for why you can’t do this or that in the name of growth. Just Do It.