Should Small Business Owners Care About Big Business Experience?
The answer is simple: no and depends. It is not a cop out, let me explain. The big corporate crowd, those who spent years working in the sought-after golden-resume type companies, simply can not relate to the world of small business owners. Period. Why? Resources. And by resources I mean money and teams. This is not a condemnation of hard working corporate employees. But their world is not relevant to "our" small world. Apple started as a small garage-based venture. How they scaled up and what was it like in those days is very relevant. How they function today is not. Size does matter when it comes to money and teams. The entrepreneur worries about her next payroll and how to maximize a one thousand dollars investment on advertising. In contrast, the big-budget corporate world worries about "numbers" and justifications. The inner-working of corporations, well-meaning as it may be, simply does not relate to small business: there are less people to point fingers at, you are continuously exposed and what is on the line, more often than not, is not your job but survival of the business.
What about corporate "structure" (meetings, goals, measurement? What about it? Do you want to spend all day in meetings or do you want to get something done? Small business must continuously move forward in thinking, action and execution. We may want to be a Google one day, but to get there we must function as a small business: a tight, cohesive group of energetic and spirited individuals who put everything on the line, every day. Does it sound too scripted? Maybe, but successful small companies operate just like that.
There are general accepted norms for doing business, which are not the domain of big corporations.Setting clear goals, project management or human resources management are key examples. Those of us who have worked in larger corporations know the difference: How many times a day were you asking yourself: "why is everything so complicated"? "Why do we need another meeting to discuss the meeting"? "Why does my manager's ego matter more than the right thing to do"?
Not all small businesses struggle on a daily basis. Those that do are typically run by an owner who micromanages the business and ignores her shortcomings which prevent any real progress. Many entrepreneurs left the corporate world in search of financial freedom and personal fulfillment. Ask them what helped them survive the tough years and come close to achieving their vision? Not multi-tab complicated Excel spreadsheets to manage projects, or pretty but unattainable goals. No, what works in small business is "staying small" even when you're growing. Not giving up on employees' empowerment, always thinking about forward-movement and not wasting time on meaningless minutia like "why did Bill take a longer break today"?. Not taking anything for granted, always questioning "facts" and keeping a close eye on the competition.
Strategic thinking wasn't invented by big corporations. We should all be thinking strategically but the small business owner can't afford turning "thinking" into a department. What really matters in the life of small business is not smart thinking but making decisions. Making them after a reasonable amount of analysis and input. Then, decide, execute, analyze, correct, execute again, get better each time you repeat the process.
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said "you can't step in the same river twice". Pause. Think. It is "never" the same river. The same holds true in the world of business. We can make some assumptions and we have to. But we must also recognize that when we wake up the next day, it is never the same as the day before. The advantage of small business is its ability to adopt quickly. The lack of bureaucratic hierarchy and Murphy's Law that stifle big corporations, is what makes it unique and fun. We often hear (or have lived through) an acquisition of a small business by a larger corporation. "We are bigger than you therefore we know better so it's time to do things our way". A very common occurrence in the world of mergers and acquisitions and the sad outcomes are also widely known.
Remember, just because the grass is greener next door does not mean that your neighbor knows something you don't. Ask her, always inquire and learn but stay true to yourself and what makes you unique. You may find out that she installed a very expense no-maintenance artificial grass. You can't afford it so now what? Keep watering the lawn, fertilize, mow and keep your eye on subtle changes. Execute. Analyze. Correct. Execute. Enjoy.