Creating Social Value Blog / Food

The Power of Slow Growth

Grow slow is not a term (or mindset) often associated with entrepreneurs. The lore surrounding the lifestyle suggests that they are high-octane, brazen, impatient, and erratic: “Move fast and break things” à la Mark Zuckerberg.

But as Senior Fellow at Food Sol Bob Burke will tell you sixteen ways to Sunday (and did once again at Community Table earlier this month), rapid scale-up of a new food business is a mistake. Perhaps he feels compelled to repeat himself given how many food entrepreneurs he’s seen make it.

Bob Burke at a recent Community Table at Babson.

Bob Burke and Ed Doyle at a recent Community Table at Babson.

Food entrepreneurs have picked up the idea (perhaps from tech or the venture capital community) that the keys to success lie in growing quickly. The press doesn’t help: It tends to compress the entrepreneur’s journey into a quick and dramatic tale of adventure and conquest—a far cry from the reality of most boots on the ground creators.

In moving too fast, the story may be dramatic – but the drama will most often come from the business’ end.

Take your time. Listen carefully to real stories of real entrepreneurs (like Babson Entrepreneur in Residence Gail Simmons who got radically honest with Diane Mulcahy and the MBAs in her ‘Gig Economy’ class last week) that reveal carefully assessed opportunities, strategic decision-making and wherever possible, mitigated risk.

My recent piece in The New Food Economy looks at the logic behind slow and steady growth. And, we will drill into this at length in the “Food Entrepreneurship” MBA elective offered in the fall. In the business of food, strategies of slow growth, and measuring what it means, are vitally important to lasting and meaningful success.