Has your company answered the big small question? If not, it could be a continuing source of distracting consternation.
What is the big small question? First, a bit of background, well-articulated by Ridgely Evers in arecent issue of American Express’ OPEN BOOK. Evers headed up the creation of Quickbooks at Intuit, has served as CEO of a number of Bay-area companies, is managing partner of a venture capital fund and is a board member of SCORE. In other words, he’s been around. He says:
People think there’s some kind of continuum between the smallest and biggest business ‘” an unbroken line between me and the mouse on my desk and Microsoft ‘” and that there’s some magical moment where you transform from being a small to a midsize to a large business. In fact, research shows that to be very far from the truth. Each form of business is a totally separate beast, and there are vastly different skill sets in running each one.
The real difference between a small business and an enterprise is the owner’s attitude toward growth. A Silicon Valley start-up is completely focused on getting big, and naturally risks failure to get there. A true small business, on the other hand, is focused on becoming profitable, feeding a family, and staying in business. That’s a fundamental psychographic and cultural difference.
I’ll say it is. And it can be a source of friction'”often misunderstood, perhaps even unrecognized'”at growing companies. Unless the entire leadership team is aligned and on board with respect to growth and profitability objectives (and the resulting risk ramifications), members of it are likely to make counterproductive decisions.
Which leads to the big-small question: Is your organization a big small company, or a small big company? How you answer that will impact just about every strategic decision you make. There is no right answer; the only wrong answer is not having an answer.
I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: the number one issue that keeps struggling companies from effectively recovering is not a loss of focus, a loss of nerve, or marketing inconsistency (although all are contributing factors); it’s a lack of strategic alignment among the management team. If your company hasn’t answered the big small question, make it a top priority. It will not only affect how you answer other things, it may change the questions altogether.
Steve McKee is president of McKee Wallwork Cleveland and author of When Growth Stalls: How It Happens, Why You’re Stuck, and What to Do About It . Find him on Twitter and LinkedIn