Before we grow big outside, let’s grow big inside

I heard about Chick-fil-A just last year on NPR and was fascinated how Samuel Truett Cathy (or S. Truett Cathy) built a simple chicken sandwich shop into one of the largest restaurant chains in America.

Even more profound was his quote (that I heard in another podcast recently) in response to the board’s recommendation to expand Chick-fil-A further, “before we grow big outside we must grow big on the inside.” I literally had to pull over my car and quickly type this up into my notes app (Google Keep) in fear of losing this gem to osmosis.

While expansion of business is a much welcomed and often a necessary move, it may not be the most effective one if the foundation isn’t strong. And many business owners/entreprenuers take the plunge much earlier than they should. Only to experience major repercussions a few months down the lane. Why? They realise they had a lot happening inside the organisation (morale, leadership succession, HR and trust issues among others) which needed to be addressed should the business operation itself succeeds.

And that’s like a boat with too many leaks, which eventually becomes too much to take for a growing business. The consequences, as we know it, are dire.

What I like about ‘growing on the inside’ is that it goes against the notion of ‘expanding the business.’ I sometimes get the feeling that the value of building a solid foundation is lost on us. Perhaps, it doesn’t have an appeal or zing to it because working on the ‘inside’ is a much slower process and the chances of striking it rich goes way down.

But I could be wrong. What I do know is instead of focusing all your effort to grow your business on the outside, growing it on the inside will build a business that can very well outlive you. Because such a business is always built on a foundation of trust and respect.

The question is if you have it in you to play the long game. Do you?

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