Paul’s concerns about whether we’d be able to find interesting small businesses vanished right at the start of our first trip. We met in Memphis, Tennessee, on a summer Sunday morning, and spent the day being tourists. We re-enacted the classic Spinal Tap scene at Elvis’s grave, watched a hazy sunset with the ducks atop the Peabody Hotel, and popped Prilosec at 10: 00 p.m. to counteract the horrifically bad BBQ platter we’d shared at a tourist trap on Beale Street.
We woke Monday to bright sunshine and grabbed a quick Holiday Inn Express breakfast. Hopping in our rented Dodge Charger, we headed northwest on US 63 to Jonesboro, Arkansas. Perched on Crowley’s Ridge, a narrow band of hills rising above the flat and humid Mississippi River plain, Jonesboro boasts a population near 70,000. Arkansas State University, with plenty of newish academic buildings and dormitories, dominates the east side of town, and Stadium
Boulevard was alive with dozens of newly constructed strip malls to serve a growing student population. Main Street, quieter with upscale restaurants in old brick buildings, sat a mile west of campus. We were so excited to be out on the road that Paul and Scott were a little surprised when Mike suggested we stop for more coffee. “You didn’t get enough brews at the hotel breakfast nook?” Scott asked, pointedly.
“Look, we have forty-five minutes until our next meeting. You’d rather just sit in the car?” Mike replied. Paul navigated to the nearby Starbucks, where we resisted a strong urge to pepper the cashier and barista with business questions while ordering. Paul grabbed his tall coffee and waded through the late-morning crowd to a tiny round table near the front window. “Shouldn’t we be at a hip independent coffee shop?” he asked after we had gathered. “I thought we were professors in search of small business stories.”
“I’d say ‘hip’ is not a word that suits us,” Mike quipped. “We’re probably better off here.” “Cool people make me uncomfortable,” Scott added, nodding. The conversation quickly turned back to business (and away from our personal insecurities) as we contemplated how Starbucks has done it. It was, after all, a hip independent coffee shop at one time— one that grew to tens of thousands of outlets worldwide. This kind of success represents the promise and possibility of small business with aspirations for growth, and the Starbucks story began to frame our thinking about the companies we were planning to visit.
Does this business have what it takes to expand, or are there factors present that will inherently limit its growth? What can companies do to grow effectively, and what pitfalls should they try to avoid? While it’s not clear that we ever met with the next Starbucks, we did find many interesting companies that scaled up in creative ways. Others, however, struggled to grow despite having considerable success at a limited scale. An important Mazzeo’s Law question for any small business owner is this: What does successful growth depend on?
Know more about scaling a business only at the University Canada West, one of the best universities in Canada, offering various business and management related programs.
Like the article? Subscribe to the Feeds Now!