Why Big Companies suck when you've got talent

This note from an executive at Yahoo just endorses my views on big companies.

Ok, I confess I'm not a big company guy. I've always preferred operating within a small partnership of likeminded individuals, as I am now, in preference to the roles I had on boards of major companies. There are several key reasons, the flavour of which is echoed in the AOL note.

- In a small company you are forced to talk to the outside world and in doing so remain in close contact with the market. In contrast, you can easily remain within the walls of big company dealing with internal issues/politics and become detached from reality - why trouble yourself with commerce when there's admin to do.

- Small companies aren't big enough to carry passengers nor do firms of "A-Listers" employ "B-Listers", usually detesting people who are unwilling to throw themselves into whatever is required [self-starters] and who aren't willing to take risks because they fear failure. However, Big companies usually enter a viscious circle of being unable to attract "A-Listers" for the reasons above and in hiring "B-Listers" find they drive away the existing "A-Listers". This latter group get tired of working with unproductive bureacrats that are unwilling to accept responsibility and who run from opportunities. As was commented to me on Friday, conscripts rarely fire a shot in battle because that involves sticking your head up to fire.

- Entrepreneurship is often opportunitistics; you sense an opportunity and look for ways to see it through, which may not necessarily follow a pre-determined plan [whenever I've run big programmes of work for firms in my consultancy days, they were usually spooked by my attitudes towards plans - great for considering the many ways that the battle might play out, but when circumstances change its more important to be agile and adapt, that to adhere to a plan and end up in the wrong place which no-one actually wants. Better that you are willing to make decisions and accept the responsibility for their outcome.]

But Big companies don't work like that do they. They have pre-set ways for doing stuff, usually grounded in a project office/admin mantra that "we've done this before", but which completely ignores the fact that environments change. And when they do encounter someone willing to take risks, challenge the staus quo and seek forgiveness rather than permission, they are freaked - I've regularly been challenged about whether I actually had the authority to do "X", and always answered that they were welcome to ask the CEO/COO about that but suggested they firstly assess how they'd be judged on whether their effort in intervening was adding value. They'd usually chicken out because they couldn't ever be sure how it would play out and wouldn't want to take the risk!

Contrary to those "B Listers" impression - I never sought controversy for the sake of it [albeit baiting them was fun sometimes]; it was usually because I felt doing what I did was in the best commercial interest of the client/company and was happy to accept the related responsibility.

In a small partnership, you are all expected to pitch in and get on with it. In fact, peer pressure will maintain that. But you'll do it anyway because you don't want to let your colleagues down and your are motivated to succeed. That just doesn't happen often in the Big company and that's why they are screwed up usually.

I know I'm not alone in having these beliefs - I meet thirty and forty something year old former senior executives almost daily who having made their "pile of cash" got out of the big company because they now wanted to "do something" for a change.

posted by John Wilson @ 12:20 AM Permanent Link newsvine reddit


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