Small businesses are the hardest.
Large organizations might regularly fall into inefficiency and dysfunction, but they do so in predictable patterns. Stay in a large company long enough, and you’ll develop know-who and know-how to get things done—or at least get by. Pattern recognition paired with general leadership skills and a crash course in each industry’s specific quirks can go a very long way. And big organizations have access to incredible internal resources.
Startups can be nerve-wracking, but they too are very predictable. And they have their own excellent resources to rely on: battle-tested playbooks, cheap tools, engaged investors, willing recruits. They run lean, but they are never alone.
Small businesses have none of those advantages. They are resource-constrained, highly peculiar, and failure-prone. They can have skilled leaders, but those leaders are responsible for everything: marketing, sales, operations, staff management, strategy, service delivery, accounting, etc. The growth curve is relentless. Running a large business is like steering a giant ship. Running a small business can be like staring into the void on a daily basis.
The good news for small business owners is that general rules of business do apply, and even at humble scales, entrepreneurs can manage their organizations at a system-level, rather than drowning in detail complexity. Small business owners cannot afford ineffective beliefs and self-defeating habits, and the crucible of ongoing self-growth can be deeply fulfilling. An additional and obvious plus is that a small business owner can evolve her business to fit uniquely into her life and personal definition of success.
I find with small businesses, a little bit of help goes a very long way. One tool, idea, coaching intervention, or recommendation can inspire a flood of progress and fresh thinking.
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