In the introductory Small Business Tips post, we began to explore the advantages of being a small business. This idea and its accompanying truths are along the lines of what is taught by Lean Startup guru, Eric Reis.
In short, stop thinking about what you don’t have. Start thinking about what you do have.
Now, let’s dig a little deeper into the biggest advantage small to medium size businesses have.
Another Book Recommendation For Business (Especially Small Business)
I recently finished Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath. It’s a fantastic read, rewarding on both professional and personal levels. I was struck by how well it connects to the lessons I’ve personally learned in small and medium businesses.
In fact, principles in the book underscore the ideas behind understanding small business advantages and today’s Small Business Tips topic: Staying agile.
Be Careful What You Wish For
Let’s imagine that you get everything you wish for in growing your business. As we know from the last post, you’re faced with new challenges as a result.
Those challenges are not insurmountable. They just make things more difficult: More revenue or budget means more decisions and accountability. More staff means more time with management and administrative tasks. Most deal with those challenges well. Others, not so well.
As a result, I’ve always believed that too much growth too quickly is just as bad – or worse – than not enough. The reason is one of the major challenges – actually, a threat – that results from growth: The loss of agility.
Small Business Pains vs Growth Pains
Look, it’s painful at times being a small business. Wearing lots of hats is not easy. But, growth is also just as painful. And, in fact you may find that you’re wearing just as many hats – they’re just different hats.
But, the greatest adjustments that will be made include integrating different viewpoints into decision making processes. When do you listen and heed advice? When do you ignore competing viewpoints?
These adjustments often impede the ability to:
- Make decisions quickly.
- Act on decisions quickly.
- Learn from decisions quickly.
. . . and repeat.
In other words: To stay agile. Agility – the ability to decide, act, and correct course quickly – is the greatest strength that a small business has.
Small Business Tips for Staying Agile
The E-Myth Revisited (yes, yet another book recommendation) has some great ideas for how to scale a business while retaining the qualities, like agility, that make it a healthy business. Here are some additional, simple ideas that can make a difference today:
- Trust (and maybe verify). – If you aren’t going to trust the person you are interviewing, don’t hire them to begin with. A loss of agility often stems from the insecurities and control freak tendencies of managers and business owners. Why? Lack of trust in others’ ability to make decisions means you’re just duplicating effort . . . and taking longer to act.
- Encourage a culture of experimentation. – It is far better in 99% of situations to make a call and act, observe the results, then correct course. This is true for sales, marketing . . . almost anything. Once in a lifetime opportunities are rare. Don’t act as if every marketing, promotion, or sales decision is a high risk scenario.
- Calculate worst case scenario. – If you’re spending more than 20 minutes making a decision, what’s the absolute worst that can happen for each of your options? I mean the absolute worst. What will that scenario cost? What is the cost of not acting?
- If you’re complaining that you’re working too much, you probably are. – There is nothing worse than listening to someone complain again about how much they’re working. A late night working here or there is just life. Ongoing, constant late nights point to bigger problems. If you manage staff, are you trusting them and letting them do their jobs? If you don’t have staff, what routine – but necessary – tasks can you contract out? If you work for someone else, it’s time to have a talk.
This is the 2010s. Not the 1810s. We don’t have to wait for sailing ships and letters to arrive in order to make a decision or act.
What are your thoughts? What are ways you’ve discovered to stay agile? Tell us below.