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.
The Next Us posts for small businesses:
Scaling a small business
The Six Centers (simplified)
Who is your customer?
What is brand?
Brand vs. performance marketing
Climb the ladder
Favorite consulting resources:
Million Dollar Consulting, Alan Weiss [worth a skim re: partnerships and pricing]
Leaders and Indies, Venkatesh Rao
The Guru Factor, Venkatesh Rao
Fourth Wave Consulting, Venkatesh Rao
The Art of Being Unmanaged, Venkatesh Rao
The Way of the Mercenary, Venkatesh Rao
Here are some of our latest SMB clients:
“We partnered with Mark on a naming project to determine the best path forward after an acquisition – keep one of the original names or launch as a new brand/new company name. Mark is the ideal partner! He is approachable and easy to work with while also being wicked smart and knowledgeable. He invested in getting to really know our company and went above and beyond throughout the project. I would select him for a future project again with no hesitation.”
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