BIG = Small
Most literature about management self-improvement (which a lot of this blog is about really) is contextualised in big corporations, and particularly Big American Corporations. This is NOT where most of us work, most of us work in those companies with a staff number someplace between 2 and 50; fact! And some of us work in someplace other than America; fact!
So is it any surprise that self-improvement books and literature about management is so often started, put down and then forgotten. It just doesn’t speak to us and our needs, the inspiration is lost somewhere normally around a third of the way in. Great if you want to shift books about management self-improvement, not so great if you’re the one buying.
Right so I’ve got that out of the way, FINNA is not, definitely not about being BIG for the sake of it.
The question I often get asked by those who want my help on a personal or one-to-one basis is along the lines of “how do I make my business scalable?” This is a question which is about making a business grow and replicate what it does across areas of activity and location. My usual response to this kind of question is to ask a question right back; What will you get from a scalable business? What will your customers get from a scaled business? Do you think that your business will still be great if it scales-up?
This is the point where I will normally refer the questioner to the great sage Mr. Jimmy Cliff and his song The Harder they come the Harder they Fall (not an obvious choice I admit but he works for me). The song is about searching endlessly, about the unattainable, the pie in the sky.
Searching for the scalable business, well once scaled-up (and how far is scaled-up?) is that not the starting point for further scaling-up? The scalable business is not a great business; and then the conversation will turn to how the questioner feels about their business and if they’re happy to let it go? Did they start the business because they just wanted to make money or did they once believe in their product or service?
I can tell you the answer 100% of the time is, its not about the money, it’s about being as they are, just bigger, and delivering to more people the great products and services they are rightly proud their company delivers.
Okay, so it sounds like FINNA is saying don’t grow, this is not the case, FINNA says be careful with your business.
FINNA tells you grow, just keep your business units small, at most a business unit should not exceed 50 people. This also applies if you are part of a cost/profit-centre in a business, keep you team/unit small and deliver great service, always deliver great service! The model, if you need one is a Professional Service Company (say for example a lawyers or architects), make your team deliver professional service and be great when they’re doing it. The Quality Department may be a 6 people unit in a 200 person £10M business but the 6 person unit should be run like a small business delivering great service to the internal customer who will then deliver great service (you hope) to the external customer, those people and organisations that pay all your salaries.
FINNA offers that if you are focused on “scalability” from the start, you will not succeed!
Q/ When to scale then?
A/ When you need to, when you have traction; and then you worry about the rate of growth and if you can replicate what was so good about your business in the first place.
And so back to Jimmy and his song, Jimmy is totally clear he’s gonna get his share, keep on fighting for the things he wants because you can’t when you’re dead and gone. He’d rather be a free man in his grave than living as a puppet or a slave.
If you decide to grow quickly you will (if you remain in business) become either a puppet of the new, radically new that is, organisation that was once your grand idea or you’ll become enslaved by the financial rewards.
Data drawn from real experiences is that in the long term everything in existence will deteriorate. So grow, but grow slowly and steadily, be sure of your growth.
Paul Ormerod “I am often asked by would-be entrepreneurs seeking to escape from life within huge corporations ‘how do I build a small firm for myself? The answer seem obvious. Buy a very large one and just wait.”
I love small businesses, they are focused on what they do. Sure many of them are family run affairs and that’s not a bad thing so long as all pull in the same direction. But the big thing about small businesses and small teams within larger businesses are that they have passion. If somebody doesn’t show the passion about what their team is doing, well you have to deal with them, quickly.
As leaders we have to have and show passion for our business and for what our business does. We have to love our business activity areas. We have to cultivate exceptional performance, we have to cultivate exceptional relationships with our customers and suppliers. One-to-One interactions, making promises and delivering on those promises are what says loud and clear that we care, we will deliver and we love doing business with you, our customer.
Aim for niche domination, you will be a giant whilst remaining small. You will develop revenues from your uniqueness. All of us willingly pay more if what we’re getting is hard to get hold of.
You want to be BIG, go ahead be my guest. FINNA wants to be here for a long tme and be great.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post, I hope you got something from it.