TODAY I’M HEADED TO DENVER for the Small Giants Summit. This is a fantastic opportunity to interact with other business leaders who thoughtfully reject the pressure to take their companies public.
We make a lot of assumptions in our culture that bigger is better and that growth is even mandatory for survival. The Small Giants Community shows us that you can have much more impact as a privately held company, and there’s an appropriate size for a business at which it is most effective.
It really does depend on your company’s mission.
What’s depressing is how much we idealize large, publicly held businesses. The press loves to write about them because they’re well known, data is readily available, and presumably they’re having a larger impact than small companies.
Yet those large ones represent such a tiny, tiny proportion of the business world. Our small companies have a much bigger impact – it’s just more diffuse and localized.
Imagine the typical basketball team with 5 players on the court, or football team with 11 on the field. That’s a subset of the players available to the team, but the size of the roster is maybe only five times that.
Feel free to argue that there will be an advantage if the team is able to put one or two more players into the game. They’ll have more options than the competitor, right?
But then imagine if we double the number of players. Or triple. Or increase by a factor of 10.
The team is no longer effective. Sure, they have more bodies out there, but they’re never going to be coordinated and confusion will reign.
Yet this is what we try to do with publicly held companies. Double! Triple! Ten times! Grow forever!
We know it’s not possible to grow forever, and that there should be some limit on effectiveness. But investors keep pushing in their insatiable appetite for growth.
Well, if you’ve determined that the optimal size of your business is 15 people, or even just two, I applaud you. You’ll feel the pressure to grow more, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be any happier.
And it doesn’t mean your business will be more successful either.