Not that long ago we all lived by a simple creed: bigger is better. Skyscrapers reached taller, hair got higher, and shoulder pads were a thing for a while.
But now, it seems, we’ve woken up to the possibilities that small has to offer. Working for a start-up is now far trendier than working for a multinational, everyone’s super into tapas, and we’ve, thankfully, lost the shoulder pads.
Large companies became large companies because they were good at what they did; that’s why we inherently trust big brands more. It’s an easy assumption to make, after all, to get where they have they must have done something right. The problem is, because they grew to where they are delivering a good service, maybe even a great service, these large companies aren’t looking to do something different.
And maybe they don’t have to do something different. They play it safe and it works for them. But if you’re looking for a service that’s offering something bold and new, then steer away from the conglomerates, from the multinationals. If you want to think big, go small.
Large companies don’t have the agility that smaller companies have. By their very nature, if there’s more to change then it takes longer to change it. It’s this lack of agility that brings down seemingly untouchable conglomerates; it’s why Blockbuster didn’t last when everyone started watching movies online, it’s why Blackberry went out of fashion when they refused to adopt a touch screen keyboard.
Agility is becoming more and more important because the world is changing faster. Just look at the tech ‘unicorns’ who are getting billion dollar valuations only a year or two after starting up. Uber and AirBnb are the US’s top valued unicorns and both came into existence less than 10 years ago. Tesla, which was founded in 2003, recently had a market value that overtook Ford’s. It’s clear that in order to keep up, business agility is vital.
But it’s important to note that not all small companies are agile, and not all large companies are slow to change. It’s not as black and white as that. The real agent that leads to agility is insight. You cannot claim to have an agile business if you don’t have a holistic view of it. After all, how can you implement change quickly if you don’t know where everything is at right now. When partnering with a business, ignore anyone who tells you that they are ‘agile’ if they don’t have the data to back it up. This level of data analysis and insight creates an agile environment which not only facilitates fast change, but also creates an environment in which you could potentially foresee problems before they even happen and adapt your strategy proactively instead of fixing problems as they occur.
Plus, if you partner with a large business, then you’re joining a long list of companies that are doing the same. This may work for you, if you’re looking for a tried and tested service. But, it also means that your power and influence as a client is minimal. Unless you’re a priority customer, your request is going to sit at the bottom of a large pile.
If you want a service that is truly exceptional, then you have to partner with brilliant people. There are brilliant people in both small and large businesses alike, but with a large business you’re likely to be further away from that person. You’re talking to the echo not the voice. Your request has to be passed up the line and, as with every game of chinese whispers, it will be diminished or morphed by the time it gets back to you. Partnering with a smaller business means that you’re going to be in the room with the person that you need to help you, not in an ever-expanding queue.
So, if you want to think big, think ahead, and do something different, then go small. A big company can offer you a safe, reliable service, and that may suit you. But if you’re brave enough to do something different, and be better, then you’ve got to choose a small, sharp, smart business.