Why Growing Your Small Business in a Silo is Bad for Business

Farm siloGrowing up on my Grandma’s farm, I was accustomed to silos. The towers were used to store grain through the harsh winters of North Dakota. In business, “silo” is a term used to describe “a system, process, department, etc. that operates in isolation from others”. For the small business owner, it’s working alone. As early as age 6, I understood the hazards of silos.

During fall harvest, grain was pumped into the top of the silo. Far below, within the dark interior of the silo, a farm hand distributed the grain uniformly. Grain acts like quicksand and a farm hand can rapidly suffocate under it’s weight. Although a small business owner working in a metaphorical silo certainly isn’t deadly, it does have hazards of its own.

Party of One

With little strategic interaction with like-minded entrepreneurs, small business growth begins to suffer in a multitude of ways.

Loss of creativity. With no one with whom to exchange ideas, concepts, and plans can suffer from a drought of imagination. New product and/or service launches designed to spark growth, may yield lackluster results without crucial input of others.

Time-consuming learning. The ability to apply the right knowledge at the right time is a cornerstone for small business growth and success. Given the pace at which new information is created, it can be difficult to stay current. Minus market relevance, and your small business growth can quickly stall.

Blind spots. Well-known strategist, Michael Porter, used “blind spots” to refer to wisdom that no longer holds true yet still guides business strategy. What one is oblivious to can, in fact, hurt your small business growth. This is what is referred to as “insanity” — doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Weakened self-confidence. Minus feedback from others, a self-assessment about one’s performance can quickly deteriorate beyond the truth. You can quickly feel like Alice when she fell down the rabbit hole. You can quickly spiral down too far and too fast. It crushes optimism, rattles confidence, and motivation begins to suffer.

All in all, growing your small business alone is not pretty and it’s much harder than it needs to be. It just might be time to expand your strategic network.