Having spent the past several years starting and running a small business, and also providing consulting services to dozens of small business clients, I’ve gained a bucket load of insight about what makes a small company tick. From the CEO down to the newest intern, small company people share a similar profile and they embrace a sort of business continuum.
Starting a new business is risky for the business owner. There is usually limited stability, and it is not for the faint of heart. If you are a potential employee considering joining a small business, you likely need to have a “nothing to lose, much to gain” personality. If the business succeeds you succeed, and vice versa.
Small businesses need money. If you are the owner, you either need sustained contracts or capital. If you are the employee, you need to get a paycheck and you want competitive benefits. A little stock ownership never hurts either!
Good people are the heart of any business, and smart owners understand this. You need people who will drive the brand, work with you to define the future, and help achieve success. If you are a job seeker, you likely want to work both with and for people that you respect and enjoy. In a small company the hours are rarely 9 to 5. A substantial amount of time is spent with your boss and co-workers, so if you don’t have mutual respect things can get ugly in a hurry.
For the business owner, developing a successful brand requires focus and strategy. You need to know your market, and promote a credible and interesting product or service. As an employee, becoming part of a brand that you are proud of provides a measure of job satisfaction. A great brand is exponentially easier to sell to clients, friends, and potential recruits.
Once a business is established, for the owner it becomes about “where do we go from here.” It’s about expansion versus enhancement or more simply put, about growing the bottom line versus continuously improving what you already have. For the employee, the future is about “where can I grow from here” but the answer is less traditional. The career trajectory of a small company employee is more likely to be sideways than upwards. It often involves gaining new skillsets versus taking on positions of increased responsibility. Ladder climbers beware – the small company is probably not for you!
The desired end result for any business owner is the reward, which either comes in the form of a profitable, well run organization with happy employees, or a big payday. For the employee, the reward is not as well defined, which is why all of the other factors are so critically important. Sometimes, the reward is in the roller coaster ride itself.
In a nutshell, small company people are the ones who eagerly brave the business continuum and enter into the cycle over and over again. They are the “roll up your sleeves and get it done” people of the world who are always on the hunt for their next adventure, both inside and outside of the office. They bring structure rather than require it, and they aren’t afraid to take on challenges in areas where they may not have much experience.
Are you a small business insider? From one to another, enjoy the ride!