6 Ways to Stay Small and (Still) Win Big

Scalability is overrated.

Getting as big as possible, as fast as possible, isn’t the only goal that matters.

THE REALITY IS: Small is an acceptable destination.

In fact, it’s not just acceptable – it’s admirable, manageable, flexible, approachable and, most importantly, profitable.

Last week I shared a list called 21 Reasons to Keep Your Company Small.

Way to stay that way? Consider these suggestions:1. Stop delegating and start deleting. Clients, readers and audience members frequently ask me how many employees I have. At which point I usually start laughing. And I’m not trying to be rude, it’s just that the day I wake up and realize I’m a manager of people – and not a creator of ideas – is the day I slit my wrists with a rusty hunting knife.

I’m a writer. I’m a thinker. And I’ve worked very hard to evolve my publishing company into an exceptionally trim operation. For the past nine years, I’ve created my own personal nirvana that enables me to focus solely on activities that leverage my talents, reach the people who matter – while still earning enough revenue to underwrite my addictions and support my lifestyle.

Everything else is deleted. Not delegated – deleted. That’s what I’ve learned from staying small: The best way to delegate something is to eliminate the need for it in the first place. After all, the less you own, the greater your mobility. The less you have, the less you have to worry about. Are you inventing things to outsource to preserve the illusion of productivity?

2. Indulge in your humanity. Regardless of size, here’s the current marketplace reality: Everything matters, everybody’s watching and everything’s a performance. The difference is, when you’re small, you can hang out in the lobby after the show and shake people’s hands.

But when you’re a hulking beast of a company, it becomes increasingly difficult to get out of the bubble and get into the grind. What organizations need to learn is, success comes when you’re willing to be bold, to be seen, and to try things.

My suggestion: Stamp out anonymity. Accept your humanness. Stop hiding behind the mask of a role or title. And for the love of God, stop sending surrogates. Because if you have to resort to some gimmick to let people know you’re there, you’re not really there.

Big provides people with convenient places to cower. Small means exposing the place where you really live and being brave enough to tell people you don’t know everything. Are you small enough to surrender your emotional hiding places?

3. Remove the posture of pretense. In Jason Jennings’s book, Think Big, Act Small, he profiled a collection of thriving organizations that are winning the size game. And what struck me most about the book’s featured organizations was the long list of things they consciously chose not to champion:

No bloated hierarchy. No committees to go in front of to get permission. No building monuments to indulge in the executive’s ego. No corner offices protected by layers of assistants. No impenetrable walls to separate leaders from their people. No expansion for the sake of expansion. No doing unnatural things just to gain marketshare.

Lesson learned: Become a master of letting go. Make a conscious decision to scale back by abandoning things whose time has passed. Because when you delete what is no longer working, you can grow judiciously where it makes the most sense. What are you keeping around just to make you feel like you’re bigger than you really are?

4. Pick a lane. A brand without focus is a brand forgotten. Try to make everybody happy, and you lose. Try to make everybody like you, and you lose. Try to make everybody want you, and you lose. That’s what big companies do. Which means success, therefore, is a process of elimination. It’s learning what your brand can live without.

Before growing any bigger, remember to ask yourself questions like:

*Will this choice add to my life force or rob me of my energy?
*Does this choice add wood to my internal fire or sprinkle water on it?
*Will this choice propel me toward an inspiring future or will it keep me stuck in the past?
*Will this choice bring me long-term fulfillment or will it bring me short-term gratification?

In short: Stop your driving your brand all over the interstate. You’ll either get pulled over, cause an accident or piss off the other drivers. Plus, it’ll take forever to get to your destination.

Remember: The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Doesn’t it make sense to just pick a lane and stay there?

5. Teamwork is nice, but not always necessary. Since day one of preschool, we’ve been indoctrinated to believe that teamwork is the secret. Truth is, the efficacy of teams is largely a myth. But we’ve been romanced and seduced into believing that teams are so wonderful, when in fact their power works in reverse.

The question becomes: Is the romantic notion of the value of teams is shooting you in the foot? In a 2009 issue of Machine Design, editorialist Leland E. Teschler explained it perfectly:

“Development teams are often an obstacle to creativity rather than a vehicle for truly elegant solutions. Many team members work at cross-purposes. That’s why throwing more people at a project frequently slows it down rather than speeds its completion.”

Consider asking the following questions before your organizational chart gets too bloated:

*How much money are you losing by waiting for somebody you don’t even like?
*Who in your business is helping you build a future that you’re going to feel obligated to be a part of?
*Are you making conscious choices about the individuals you allow to participate in your enterprise?

Ultimately, no man is an island. You still have to breathe in help. At the same time, individual productivity declines as teams expand. Might be more of a hindrance than help. Will the inevitable problems with coordination and motivation of a large team chip away at your organization’s capacity to thrive?

6. Stick yourself out there. The bigger you get, the fewer risks you take. There’s just too much pressure to be predictable. And you wind up becoming a victim of your own consistency.

Or, if you do take a risk – and make a big mistake – everybody notices. When you’re small, you can make mistakes quickly, quietly – even largely – then hide the ashes before the fire engines come. And when you’re small, failure doesn’t signify weakness and hemorrhage profits – it enables innovation, and growth.

That’s what happens when you’re not afraid of the consequences of falling short: You give yourself permission to do something great. Are you failing forward?

REMEMBER: The corporate veil of bigness and anonymity no longer matters.

I challenge you to reject the pressure of endless growth and embrace the possibility of staying small.

Seek greatness – not bigness.

How will you stay small?

For the list called, “99 Questions Every Entrepreneur Should Ask,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor

“I’ve been a supporter of the approach that mentoring should not be a paid activity as this has the potential to change the dynamics of the relationship and create a power imbalance. But I have to be honest and say that after Scott’s first mentoring response to me, the fact that I had paid something to be working with him left my mind – as far as I was concerned, the value of that (and subsequent) exchange of wisdom and knowledge, far outweighed any payment.”

–Gilly Johnson The Australian Mentoring Center

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Author. Speaker. Strategist. Songwriter. Filmmaker. Inventor. Gameshow Host. World Record Holder. I also wear a nametag 24-7. Even to bed.
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