Big is Much Harder Than Small

Just because something is working on a small scale does not mean it will work on a larger scale.

You might be able to buy and sell a few computers or hardware but running a division of Hewlett-Packard or Dell is a different game altogether. The amount of resources to manage to get an output has layers of complexity that require deft juggling and trade-offs.

You can have an assistant providing customer service in your consulting, law practice, or professional services. This can alleviate the ongoing bottlenecks to deliver your work with quality and timeliness.

But if you have to scale up and go 10x in clients, data and information flow, by necessity, you will need more people. Now you are in the game of talent management and having to coordinate everyone to align, work and execute in a concerted and cohesive fashion.

Small works because the inputs and outputs are relatively simple. You can satisfy the requirements of your customers by simply working harder. You have a lot of room to make mistakes. You can be sloppy. It’s small, so tweaking how you deliver, sell, market, and support your customers can be done with quick decisions and actions.

If you are big, you have to move many more pieces. Your team is locked into a workflow. They learned to do their job within an architecture that takes more energy to turn should you change your mind. And you have to get them not only acting the way you envision but thinking with you on what is important and how their work matters.

This is why small can be appealing. You don’t have to run an efficient operation all the time. You simply have to stay ahead of customer expectations.

When you get big, you have to manage the team’s expectations and your errors can be more costly. It’s hard to shift to a new process, system or way of doing things when you have new information that you want to act on.

If you are small currently, you will have a challenge in scaling up. And it’s not trivial. The last thing you want to do is underestimate the costliness. Running a big operation demands more. If you’re not up for the hassle, then consider the luxuries of staying small.

Perhaps use the ambition and bandwidth to build something else small and run it in parallel. See if you can gain the net revenue with less hassle this way.

Have you found challenges in scaling up? Do you like small or big?

Published by Don Dalrymple

I partner with founders and entrepreneurs in startup businesses. I write and consult on strategy, systems, team building and growing revenue.

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