Keys for Switching to a Smaller Team

Moving to a smaller organisation is an exciting step for many managers.
But habits that arguably lead to success in larger organisations can prove to be destructive within small businesses and start-ups.

Internet entrepreneur and CEO Michael Fertik, blogging for HBR.org, provides some ideas to ensure effectiveness in a new role within a smaller organisation.

Forget influence and empire-building. One of the most visable qualities of successful large company managers is knowing how to build influence and consensus for initiatives within the organisation. These behaviours kill small companies as they can tax everything the business does, keeping them from moving forward.

Solve everything yourself. Small-company managers are consistently self-reliant. They 'do-it-themselves’, communicate with all types of clients personally and model ideas by any means possible. Managers making the transition need to adjust to planning and scheduling their own meetings and organising their own recruitment pipeline. 

Never 'cover your behind’ – 'CYB’emails, meetings, and conversations are standard practice at many big corporations – e.g. “My project is really depending on Joseph's finishing on time".  When you're considering a job at a small enterprise, look for colleagues and bosses who don't tolerate excuses or deflecting responsibility. Call it out if you see it happen in your team – it will make them plan for workarounds and create a culture of mutual interest and success instead of territorial defense.

Go faster. Projects that might take a year at a large company can and should take 30 days at a small one. This is an enormous change in mindset for managers, but a hugely liberating one also. To make this work, minimise discussion on 'process’ and 'compliance’ to levels of absolute necessity. Hire consultants only to add bursts of extra capacity when needed, not to confirm your suspicions.

Get used to waterfall budgeting. In start-ups and smaller businesses, budgeting can happen opportunistically, monthly, or even on an ongoing basis. For a successful large-company manager, it can seem difficult to operate without knowing the resource pool for the coming year. As companies mature, the budgeting process usually takes shape, allowing for monthly, quarterly, and eventually annual planning. But getting there can take time.

Understand that your daily impact is huge. Discovering that your impact at the small company is massive compounds both the excitement and sense of responsibility for people newer to small companies. The most practical way to adapt is to focus on learning to evaluate and trust your judgment as quickly as possible, so that you can both plan and execute along the right path for the company as a whole.