3 things big business can learn from the entrepreneur

Maybe it is a result of the recession and mass redundancies, or maybe it is the lack of employment available for young people, or maybe it is just because we are now seeing that there is another way, but starting your own business is alive, well and growing stronger.

The most wonderful aspect that I am finding is that the new businesses tend not to be the tried and tested formulas, but new, innovative and heart based.  Business owners are embracing their uniqueness, their niche and their strengths, and building their business on those foundations.  It is as though they are creating the exact opposite of the corporate organisation.

Now I am not going to spend the next 10 minutes bashing the corporates, they have enough of that already.  I want to explore what the corporate organisations can learn from the SME’s.  In fact, this is the business model that Richard Branson has chosen to create with Virgin.  It is not one big organisation, but rather lots of unique companies, sharing the same values, culture and under one umbrella.

At its best work can be one of the most rewarding and fulfilling parts of our lives, yet for many, it is far from that.  Sometimes we sit back in watch the absurdity of what is going on around us, knowing full well why it is absurd, but unable to do anything about it.  For some, you become institutionalised, and accept the weird behaviours around you.  You, in fact, begin acting the same way and conforming just survive.  You become a little less like you.

3 reasons why work is absurd

1. Work is hard

Entrepreneurs and the new breed of business owners know that work can be fun, it can be playful and enjoyable.  In fact, most have set up the principle that if they don’t like something in their business they will either not do it, or outsource it to another business owner who thrives on it.  Think admin, data, technology, meetings, document production, all of which can be outsourced to someone who genuinely loves it and is good at it.

We have been brought up to believe that work is hard, a duty and a must.  Work doesn’t have to be serious, grey, bland and miserable.  Work can be part of our fulfilling life, not something we do to have a life.

In fact everyone at work wants to be professional.  What the hell does that mean anyway?  Someone who can connect with people, delivers with honesty and integrity and is an expert in their field?  Yes that might be professional.  Where does it say that professional is grey, beige, serious or conforming?  Be like the self-employed, be professional in your own way and make the best years of our lives fun, fulfilled and abundant.

2. You can learn it in a book

Now if you go into any book shop, or join any leadership course which gives you a qualification at the end of it, you will learn all about the rules and models about how to manage people and processes.  You will learn that work will work if you follow these rules, because it is rationale.  Efficiency can be achieved through a series of calculated steps and you can achieve performance by following the rules.

What a load of rubbish.  Firstly all organisations are living and breathing organisms surviving in an ever-changing, unpredictable, volatile environment.    It operates in a world where people exist, political, economic, and social and customer landscape is governed by people.  The organisation is people, everyone in it makes the organisation.  And each and everyone one of us is unique, individual, weird, absurd, creative and so much more.  We are not, not do we create a rationale world.

I can’t think of any business who has built a forecast or a strategy and achieved it consistently.

Small businesses know that the way to run a successful business is to be agile, versatile, network, build relationships, be open and honest and have integrity.  Time and money are in short supply, so pick your opportunities wisely.  Support each other, and give more than you take.

Leadership comes from within.  It is not something you can learn in a book.  Being human is who you are, and you will never be motivated by performance management reviews and ratings.  This is based on fear and control.  One human telling another what score they are given based on a select criteria applied to every other person.

How about just being human.  Ditch the books and the models, breaks the rules and be a human not a worker.


3. Celebrate your strengths and weaknesses.

Large organisations have become places based on goals, targets, measurements, and numbers.  You are employed for one job and compared to other co-workers in the same or similar roles.  You are always being monitored and assessed.  Multiple layers of management all bearing down on you.  This creates silos, mistrust, fear, competition, selfishness an ego.


It is these values and cultures that cause stress and depression.  Once people have escaped the shackles and oppression felt as they leave the corp, they often say a feeling of freedom and relief washes over them.  In fact, they ensure that their businesses run in the opposite way.

Now it isn’t the companies fault.  They employ people, and people create these behaviours.  As we walk into the office, we want to fit in, we see who is the managers favourite, or what behaviours the managers have, and we start to copy.  It is survival.  However, before you know it, you have lost individuality, diversity, creativity and passion.

You learn to play safe to guarantee that promotion, pay rise or bonus.  You stop taking risks and live the life of the professional.  You say the right things, for fear of getting it wrong.   Then before you know it, a promotion comes up, and the firm has to go external to bring in the talent because no one internally is standing out.

It is clearly absurd.  So what can we learn from the small business owner.

Celebrate your strengths and acknowledge your weaknesses.  Create your own culture based on openness, support, collaboration, and respect and giving.   People buy from people as the old adage goes.  Therefore creating a business or team where everyone is supported and happy, will create a product that attracts customers.  If they see your passion, they will be attracted to you.  There is no competition as only you do what you.  Don’t measure based on a fictional measurements.

Celebrate diversity.  Don’t treat everyone the same, and expect them all to deliver in the same way.