How small businesses can truly be nimble

Difficult differentiator

The nimbleness of small businesses should be a valuable differentiator. This is one of their competitive advantages over large businesses. Let’s face it, large companies have processes that generally require a good amount of bureaucratic muscle to modify — for good reason. The lack of this heavy bureaucracy is supposed to make small businesses nimble and allow them to provide customers with an unmatched experience.Unfortunately, what should be a big advantage for a small business is often watered down by the many hours worked by leadership owner, executives, etc. The leadership is capacity-limited, so the value of nimbleness is diminished: delivering late to other customers, inadequate creativity, inadequate quality, pulling time away from business development, etc.

The big causes of this capacity limitation are:

Perfectionism. There’s a reason why even Lexus, with its “relentless pursuit of perfection” has a warranty. There’s a point where labor added to any product or service leads to diminishing returns, making that labor awfully expensive. There just are not enough hours in a day to do everything and be perfect.
Micromanagement. This goes hand-in-hand with perfectionism. Micromanaging causes you to spend too much of your time overseeing the work of your subordinates.
Lack of documented procedures and metrics. Without well documented, implemented and measured processes, perfectionism and micromanagement are very difficult to solve.

Paradoxically, the very thing that hurts the nimbleness of large companies is what can restore it to small businesses. Documented procedures, along with associated metrics and training, enable delegation and give confidence to the quality of deliverables. With less executive time spent on delivering all — or most — products, more time is available for strategic decision making, providing extra muscle for an important deadline and delivering better customer service.

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