Small Biz is Different from Big Biz

Category: Strategy Published on May 08 2017

Have you ever had that moment when you suddenly had a core belief proven to be accurate? Or perhaps found proof that it’s not only accurate but also more important than you realized?


I had one of those moments. While reading Corporate Lifecycles by Ichak Adizes, I had my belief that small businesses are different from larger organizations both confirmed and explained. I don’t want to bore you with all the geeky details (if you don’t think this is geeky I suggest you read the book or ask me more about it when you see me) so I will summarize it simply by stating:

The skill sets required by organizations change over time.
And even when the same skills are necessary in both a large company and a
small business, the application of those skills will be markedly different.


What does this mean to you as a small business owner? While you can learn a lot about how to profitably grow your business by looking at large successful companies, you must be careful to adapt what you learn and not simply adopt it with no changes.


As small business owners we tend to have strong entrepreneurial tendencies. We see opportunity in everything that is going on around us. And we instantly start thinking about how we can harness that opportunity and make some money from it. As soon as we figure it out, we charge off in a new direction, without any real planning or thought as to whether we are using our time and energy for good or simply chasing a *shiny bauble*.


At the other end of the spectrum, large companies plan to plan. They precede their strategic planning with detailed research and departmental plans. They will spend weeks or months on strategic planning, investing hundreds, or even thousands, of people hours in the process.


Planning to plan tends to make large companies slow, especially when compared to a smaller company’s agility and ability to react instantly at the whim of the entrepreneurial owner. And yet, this level of planning also frequently results in large companies making sound decisions with fewer erratic changes in direction. So planning is not all bad.


But be warned, the type of planning that large companies do is not suited for small business. It consumes too much time and resources and frustrates the entrepreneurial owner. Planning for the small business owner must be more flexible and time efficient.


Yes, small business can reap huge rewards from strategic planning. It creates business clarity and enables the entrepreneur to grow more quickly. It helps her to easily identify *shiny baubles* so she can focus on real opportunities and move more quickly to the sales, revenues and resulting profits she desires.


However, one of the reasons that large companies find value in strategic planning is that the resulting plan is the product of multiple perspectives and experiences coming together to form a greater whole. Gaining this perspective is challenging for the small business owner since she frequently doesn’t have a board of directors or management team she can involve in the process.


So how can a small company adapt the strength of multiple perspectives in the strategic planning process? Before planning ask customers, employees, and possibly vendors key questions. Better yet, partner up with another small business and do your planning together. (Strategic Plan-ting workshops do this for you.)


Small businesses can learn a great deal about being successful from large companies. By implementing what they learn they can grow more quickly and soundly. However, it’s important to adapt large company practices in a way that makes sense for small business.


What can you adapt and apply today?



*A shiny bauble is any distraction that looks like a great opportunity.*