While I was out running today I got thinking about an Inc. Magazine article I read years ago written by a business consultant who would go into large corporations and tell the executives to take their ties off and start swearing more. This same consultant would tell small business owners to put a tie on and stop swearing so much.
Anyone who has worked for both large and small companies can fully appreciate how well this “tie” anecdote captures the differences that exist between the big and the small.
Borrow the "Good Things"
Those of us in small business tend to view large corporations as lacking pace and passion. Mostly we are right. However, logic says the “bigs” can’t be all bad or they wouldn’t have gotten big.
The trick for a small business owner is simple --- borrow the “good things” from big business and run away from the “bad things “ as fast as you can.
For example, large corporations tend to be somewhat formal while small businesses tend to be somewhat informal. Most corporations have a written procedure for almost everything while most small businesses have written procedures for almost nothing.
The lack of formality in small businesses is one of the things that let them move fast.
Unfortunately, it is also what may prevent them from achieving their full potential.
Don't Stop Swearing
I would never suggest that you put a tie on nor would I suggest that you stop swearing. However, I would suggest, “winging it ain’t working it”.
A lack of formality hinders a businesses’ ability to improve. Failing to formalize (document) best practices for critical processes means an organization will likely never be best-in-class and for certain will never be world-class. Identifying, documenting and continuously improving critical processes is one of the “good things” all small businesses should borrow from corporations.
Run Far Away
One of the “bad things” small businesses should run away from is the annual corporate planning ritual. Boy do they love their annual plan. What a waste of time. The crazy thing is they know it is a waste of time and they still do it.
Don’t get me wrong. You need a plan. You need a strategic plan. You need a real plan for how to create a real unfair advantage over your competition. What you don’t need is a bunch of spreadsheets with a bunch of numbers.
One Last Thing
If you grew up in a large corporation and now own a small business, you already know how to sort out the good and bad. However, if you have never worked in a large company you should consider hiring a senior manager who has. Big companies have a lot to offer your business. Just remember to sort through the “good” and “bad” carefully.
Finally, if you ever do decide to wear a tie, be sure to warn your team first. Otherwise you may freak them out. They’ll think you’re selling the place. Or going to court. Or …
I share small business tips and lessons that I've learned from 40 years of business experience in both starting and running companies.
Share this story if you'll put a tie on and quit swearing so much.
Thanks for reading, seriously, I mean it.