BUSINESS ADVISER AND ENTREPRENEUR RIDGELY EVERS SHARES HIS ADVICE ABOUT WHAT SMALL COMPANIES CAN LEARN FROM BIG BUSINESS.
This article was excerpted from OPEN Book: Leadership. Find more information and resources from OPEN at openforum.com/leadership.
Ridgely Evers has worked on both sides of the small/big business fence. He spent five years at Intuit, where he led the creation of Quickbooks, an accounting system for small businesses. He’s since served as CEO of a number of internet-based technology companies in the Bay Area and, with his wife, Colleen McGlynn, currently runs DaVero Sonoma Inc., a producer of olive oils, wines and other artisanal food products. Evers is currently managing partner of Establishment Capital Partners, a fund investing in small businesses, and is also a board member of SCORE, “Counselors to America’s Small Business,” which provides mentoring and runs workshops and seminars for 350,000 existing and aspiring small business owners each year. Here, he offers insight on the relative merits of “small” vs. “big” business – and reflects on the leadership qualities required to make small a success.
Successful leaders work backward. Don’t start from where you are and go forward, because there are an infinite number of directions you can take. Instead, work backward from where you want to get – your vision for your business. That will help you choose which road you take.
To be a successful leader in any business, you need to have a vision you can articulate. In Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the Cheshire Cat said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, it doesn’t matter which road you take.” So, rule one: once you know where you want to go, make sure everyone in the business understands that vision.
People think there’s some kind of continuum between the smallest and biggest business – an unbroken line between me and the mouse on my desk and Microsoft – and that there’s some magical moment where you transform from being a small to a midsize to a large business. In fact, research shows that to be very far from the truth. Each form of business is a totally separate beast, and there are vastly different skill sets in running each one. To run a small business efficiently, you really have to be good at everything.
The real difference between a small business and an enterprise is the owner’s attitude toward growth. A Silicon Valley start-up is completely focused on getting big, and naturally risks failure to get there. A true small business, on the other hand, is focused on becoming profitable, feeding a family, and staying in business. That’s a fundamental psychographic and cultural difference.
In any small business, everybody’s busy all the time. Regardless of your goals, in small business you’re all wearing multiple hats because you don’t have specialists. As a consequence, everyone has to understand the broader picture or they won’t have the tools they need to do the job they weren’t hired to do but are doing anyway. It’s essential for the owner to sit down with every new employee and contractor and make sure that they understand the business the way that he or she does.
For more info on Ridgely Evers, see: DaVero.com or openforum.com/davero