What Do Small Companies Do Well?

I've been looking into why I enjoy working with smaller companies more and more recently. It is not that I have not worked with some of the larger ones (Deloitte, Merrill Lynch, Santander, Gate Gourmet and over 100 major banks and companies where I worked on audit, consulting or investigations). It is just that there is something that attracts me to working in and with smaller businesses. What is it, and does it tell us anything about the roles we have in driving innovation?

Larger companies have greater capacity to execute, more and better data on which to base decisions, more 'perks' for employees, more security and more mechanisms to avoid or manage risks. What is not to like?

Some have put it that in a large company no one (including the Board) really knows what is going on and that employees in large companies suffer from a constant level of stress from that uncertainty and insecurity. I guess that is partly true.

My view is that it is simpler than that. At each of my companies, the moments that I have enjoyed are those were we entered a dialog with customers and got to know them and to understand their passions, concerns and requirements. That relationship, that intimacy with customers is lost the day on which you stop using email and IM to engage with your customers and start using statistical analyses to understand them. Don't get me wrong, as an accountant and spreadsheet jockey, I am as happy to use statistics, database driven models, social graphs and spreadsheets as the next pencil pusher. Those hard data systems are going to drive profits, but that is not going to deliver enjoyment.

So – the great thing about smaller companies is being able to really know your customer. Simple.

So, my next challenge – keep that connection with real customers while moving past the point where I can really hope to 'talk' to the 26,000 customers we have at Moviestorm.

Were you expecting something longer?