Business - 06.02.2020

Why Should Small Companies Think Like Big Companies?

There are two areas of orgagility that offer room for improvement.

Tony Hunter Author: Tony Hunter

How can Hunters start to think like Farmers? Or for those who are already confused…how can small companies begin to think like big companies? 

In my last piece, I highlighted opportunities for Hunter organizations to improve in the context of the orgagility framework, which centers on five things: shared vision and mission, a leadership team that inspires everyone to do their best work, a culture of speed and action, organizational accountability and alignment, and a competitive and innovative team of employees. It’s not coincidental that the two areas these small, nimble companies often fall short in are areas in which farmer organizations typically excel.

First, let’s review the definition of a hunter organization…because believe it or not, it’s not one that is run by me.

Hunter organizations are small businesses, start-ups, entrepreneurial ventures. Think about the objective of hunting—typically it means you’re gathering food for yourself or your family, to be eaten within a few days. It’s a form of survival. Using that metaphor, a Hunter organization operates using short-term thinking. It is skilled at surviving and staying afloat, and typically has a small, lean team. 

Now, within the orgagility framework, where do Hunters excel?

Through my advisory services business, I’ve noticed a general pattern with Hunters. They are often aligned on a shared vision and mission. They have a strong culture that prioritizes speed and action, and they are competitive and innovative.

These three areas of orgagility — shared vision, speed and innovation — are all important for a Hunter’s survival. Without them, these organizations can’t hire great people, nor will they be able to create differentiated products and services, or raise capital to expand operations.

My experience has shown that small companies have a few blindspots. I’ve said it before, but recognizing the need to pivot, and/or install professional management structure and processes is one blindspot. A second one is growing too quickly without a sense of their operations scalability. They may grow sales, but not operations, or grow operations quickly without the demand needed to support it.

As the start-up boom falters thanks to a pullback in investment capital, we’ve seen many once promising new companies buckle under financial pressure. A wave of layoffs has hit the start-up scene as companies figure out how to address the pitfalls of short-term thinking, over eager growth and rapid scaling.

Clearly, the reasons behind the trend are complicated, and they’re specific to the startup sector. However, there are two areas of orgagility that Hunters can employ to assist in positioning themselves for success:

  1. Create a leadership team that inspires everyone to do their best work.
  2. Establish a system of  accountability and alignment.

Many small organizations, for practical reasons, ask technical people to be managers, and managers to be leaders. Focusing on developing leadership capabilities should be one of the priorities for Hunter organizations. Now, more than ever, strong leadership can be the difference between success and failure as mounting financial pressures weigh on smaller companies. 

The lesson? Get the leadership team prepared for uncertainty and disruption now — before you’re caught in the storm.

In general, small, nimble companies tend to boast about their lack of formality and process. This kind of culture is very “appealing” to many front liners. Over time, however, conflicts over priorities and the “blame games” will begin to disrupt the business. Internal issues are best solved quickly…or they become big issues fast. Make sure accountability rests with the right people (the ultimate responsible party). Similarly, ensure you are constantly assessing goals and objectives across the company to ensure there aren’t inherent conflicts between the various work groups.

The lesson? Don’t make a fool’s choice between culture or structure…choose both.

Leveraging the strengths of Hunter organizations with these two Farmer orgagility traits is a recipe for success.