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Painted in Waterlogue

There are lessons to be learned that are often overlooked. Growth seems to be one of those markers that define a successful business, yet there is ample evidence that growth can be a deterrent to success. How so? What makes a start-up a rising star is more often than not – a few very simple factors:

[]         It’s all about employees that commit beyond what is required

[]         It’s all about formal and informal communication in an open system

[]         It’s all about understanding what everyone does

[]         It’s all about sharing in success and accepting failure as a team

[]         It’s all about a shared philosophy

[]         It’s all about a simple thank you

[]         It’s all about employee/customer relationships

[]         It’s all about trust

[]         It’s all about empowering great employees

Study and watch – these are the characteristics of businesses that are supported by loyal customers, able to attract great people, viewed as wonderful places to work, and willing to share the responsibilities of leadership. It’s true of great restaurants, great retail stores, great investment firms, exceptional banks, small auto dealerships, and even local government offices. Small, personal and people first always shines above large and business first.

So what happens as businesses grows?

[]         Those committed employees suddenly become disposable pawns

[]         Communication becomes jaded and sporadic with more unknown that           known

[]         Employees are judged against job descriptions rather than what they actually          contribute without seeking recognition

[]         Success is reserved for those in positions of power and failure is passed         down to others

[]         Suddenly staff alignment with that original philosophy that made the             company what it was is less important and negotiable

[]         Thank you are set aside in exchange for the expectation that people will work          without a pat on the back because they are getting paid to do so

[]         Employee’s are no longer given that direct contact with customers – getting to close is a sign of relinquishing power from those at the top

[]         Bigger companies are often far more Machiavellian and make a habit out of not trusting their employees

[]         Empowerment is less of a priority as companies get larger – they simply        create more layers of management to avoid giving their employees the           responsibility and authority to do what’s right.

So why is this so? It’s all about power and fear of losing it. When businesses are small and personal their operation is all about shared opportunity and unity of purpose. The question is” “Does it need to be this way?” There are examples of companies who have retained their integrity and “small business feel”, but they seem to be the exception to the rule. There are ways to structure a larger business with smaller “cohorts” based on product or service, breadth of responsibility, or defined projects but they still require leadership that is willing to work at maintaining this thinking big and acting small.

It is just depressing to see the casualties associated with companies that grow without principles and integrity. It is those great employees who made the company what it is who carry the weight of pain from a loss of faith in what they helped to build.

Support your small businesses – they have product, real service, and most important: heart and soul. Support the neighborhood restaurant with owners and employees who work side by side with a smile on their face. Support your local bookstore where the owner and staff are excited to turn you on to a new book. Support that neighborhood grocery store staffed by individuals who know the farmers and bakers who stock their shelves and make sure you know about those items on sale. Support your local hardware store where staff members know how to help you solve a problem, fix it yourself, and save a little money in the process. Support your local coffee shop – you know, the one that treats their employees like family and their customers like best friends. Maybe those local business prices are a bit higher, but they offer something that adds real value – they offer heart and soul.

I applaud those businesses that maintain the integrity of being small and personal while nurturing a growth strategy and implore those who forgot what they originally believed in, the principles that made them successful early on, to look in a mirror, pause, and take a step back. Bigger isn’t always better.


Harvest America Ventures, LLC

Restaurant Consulting

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