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A Key to Success for Small Business? Don't Become a Big Business!

Small business advice
Yes, you heard that right! But maybe not in the way you think. Growing a small business is a huge challenge, but it’s a greater challenge not to make your small business act and feel like some Fortune 500 company.

Now that’s not to say there aren’t some very well-run Fortune 500 companies, but they are less and less and even lesser the ones that behave like a nimble small business can and should. Because many entrepreneurs and small business owners, at one time, were probably part of one a much larger company, once it starts to happen, they don’t even realize it because it feels natural.

Eventually the bureaucracy sets in, and you become “big business-ized!”

It happens over time, but it starts slowly. Maybe a committee formed here or a big titled, big salary guy hired there. Or with a move to new quarters, with growth, less interaction among employees, more big offices, special parking places; a “caste system” of “us” and “them” – the employees and the management team. It can be insidious and stilt future growth. So how do you grow your small business and not act like a big business? Here are 5 critical ways to avoid becoming “big business-ized”:

Accountability – everyone, every day.

People talk about accountability, but not everyone understands it. You can’t hold employees accountable without defining their role and responsibilities AND giving them the authority and tools to carry them out. If you haven’t done that, you can’t hold them accountable.

Management, from the owner on down, have to be answerable to the company, to each other and the employees. And accountability’s not a sometimes thing, but must be visible and active every day.

Kill bureaucracy before it starts - more functions, fewer departments, more “teams,” fewer committees.

Keep as flat an organization as possible. Be sure to define functional/departmental responsibilities and lines of authority across the company. People can manage multiple functions without forming a “department.” Make crossover training and working the order of the day. Encourage team efforts over individual endeavors – no “silos.”

The only committee that ought to ever be formed should be the one for the holiday party!

No "superstar" status for anybody (even if you have some) no matter how important they are (and that includes you, the owner).

Open lines of communication.

With employees, customers and suppliers, alike. And make it face-to-face as often as possible. If some of your people are virtual, use Skype (or some other type of video conferencing) for company meetings, so that everyone is “present.” Get the entire staff physically together, as often as practical, especially socially.

Nothing beats face time, especially for families, to make the company, not just professional, but personal. Visit customers and suppliers. It makes your relationships stronger. As you continue to grow, keep all employees posted on what the company's doing and how. When things are tough, everybody should know. And celebrate victories!

The customer is everybody’s responsibility.

Not just sales. Not just customer service. That responsibility doesn’t belong to some functional area or department, but everybody. Think about when you were starting out. The entire company knew and felt responsible for every customer. You should never lose that feeling or focus. And every customer should feel like they are your only one. When it comes to solving customer problems, don’t get bogged down in organizational stratification or departmental squabbling. No finger-pointing. Just solutions!

Never stop “re-inventing” the business.

Remember what made you successful yesterday, may not make you successful tomorrow…or maybe not even, today. However, never lose the feeling that drove success. Keep that music playing. For companies to grow, they MUST change. Learn from yesterday; don't re-live it.

Constantly, question what you are doing and why in every aspect of the company, creating an attitude of “how can we do this better?” Don't be afraid to periodically "re-invent” the business. More than re-organizing the desks or a fresh coat of paint, this means re-thinking the essence of your business, especially, when growth has stalled, whether that be a new way of pricing or a total re-organization and re-focus of direction.

You can grow your small business without becoming a big business, but you need to be vigilant. Big business is just waiting to happen with your success. Don’t let it!

"The Entrepreneur's Yoda" knows these things. He's been there. May success be with you!

Have you found success in your small company breeding a “big business” feeling? Please share your thoughts in your comments. It can help another entrepreneur or small business owner.

If you like this post, by all means, share it with your networks and colleagues.

Featured blog photo courtesy of Fortune 500's website

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