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Being Small is Great

Geoff Flemming15 November 2013

Being Small is Great

By Geoff Flemming

Given the recent elections are done it seems like the market has shifted in a positive direction. The media have also maintained their consistent 'doom and gloom' outlook, but now it relates to concerns about increasing interest rates!

There are a number of lessons to be learnt from recent times about what causes business growth and sustainability - and what will cause this to not last!

Bo Burlingham wrote a book called "Small Giants - Companies that chose to be Great Instead of just ‘Big’. Bo refers to companies that chose to stay at an optimal size that suited them and the market they are in.

Simply put, the owners / leaders chose greatness over rapid growth! Whilst some of the ‘Small Giant’ companies are small [and some are big], most are hugely profitable and are great places to work.

  1. The founders recognised the range of choices available - In most cases they rejected the standard options. They created new possibilities and resisted forces that would have them comply with popular beliefs. In every case they carefully chose a market to own as well as how many, and what type of customers to take on.
  2. They overcame pressure to take the normal growth path - Rather than growth just for the sake of it, they decided to control growth every step of the way. They often rejected investors and 'money partners'. Most importantly they worked to build the type of community they want to live in, but inside their own companies.
  3. They cultivate exceptional business relationships - The leaders developed partnerships with employees, customers and suppliers. By working together in committed partnerships, they created a sense of community and common purpose among their entire supply chain. They worked to achieve a genuine mutual concern for each other's success.
  4. They create intimate workplaces - They treat employees as human beings and address their needs. In return they earn loyalty and superior performance. Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines refers to "employees who feel cared for in the totality of their lives" - treating people with respect, dignity, kindness, and generosity. They have a better life for having been part of the company.
  5. They implement a new age corporate structure - They develop innovative management systems as well as educational programs that teach 'the company way'. They taught about service as well as leadership. They choose to reject archaic 'Command and Control' management processes in favour of more innovative, 21st century methods.
  6. The leaders keep a passion for their business - They have a passion for their products and what they do in the market. They are not so much professional managers, but more so they create and maintain deep emotional attachments to their business, and especially to their people - the employees, customers and suppliers.

These companies have no special products or services, nor were they necessarily founded in a boom time. The owners / founders are not really gifted nor have specialised education or knowledge.

They did however two things really well:

  • They develop and nurture their greatest asset being their people.
  • They defined and more importantly executed upon strategy that caused them to move forward in a controlled way that maximised stability as well as profitability 

By Geoff Flemming

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