– Are they any different than large companies?

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I was recently at a gathering of independent consultants from around the Tampa Bay area and we got around to talking about the concerns of owners of small businesses. From this, we devised a list of concerns commanding the attention of small-to-medium sized business owners, to wit:

* Employees/Human Resources – staffing and allocations, payroll, benefits, and management.

* Work environment – facilities and equipment, corporate culture.

* Systems – implementing business processes productively, and staying abreast of technological developments for competitive advantage.

* Regulations – complying with rules as established by government and industrial concerns.

* Time Management – scheduling and devoting time to the proper set of priorities.

* Financial Resources – managing and planning cash flow and investments for optimal return on investment.

* General Planning & Strategy – both short term and long term, including an analysis of the market and competition.

At the end of this session, we discovered the concerns of small business owners are essentially no different than large corporations, except on a much smaller scale. The only difference was the small business owner has to move faster than his corporate counterparts simply due to the size of his operation. For example, he doesn’t have time to read voluminous business plans and financial statements. Instead, he requires summary reports which get to the point in a couple of pages. He needs good, sound supporting advice to make his life easier.

This got me thinking about the amount of time and money corporate executives invest in managing their company’s affairs. True, some things require considerable time and effort to investigate, such as researching new products/services and checking market conditions, but most of what is done is what I refer to as “meatball” type analysis which should be easy and relatively inexpensive to prepare. Let me give you an example; a couple of years ago I was working with a Fortune 500 company who had contracted with another firm to produce a Business Systems Plan. This took several months to perform and resulted in a substantial document over four feet thick (I kid you not) costing the company $1.5 million. I was asked to flip through the document and give an opinion. It only took me a couple of minutes to discover the authors had reused narrative from other client projects in the document and most of it was superfluous. The fact it was incredibly thick and printed on some pretty impressive looking paper gave the company the feeling they had gotten their money’s worth from the consultants. Interestingly, the company never acted on the information contained in the document simply because it was too voluminous and they couldn’t find their way through it. In reality, a ten page report could have satisfied the company’s needs, but I guess you cannot charge $1.5 million for a ten page document can you?

The point of all this is the size of a company really has no bearing on the concerns of those charged with running it. They are all essentially the same. In addition, the business owner doesn’t have the time or inclination to be devoured by detail. Although such detail may be important, summary reports are more effective for supporting the needs of business owners. They simply want accurate and reliable information to act on regardless of the form it takes, but preferably not four feet thick.

“Regardless of company size, the concerns of executive management are all essentially the same.”
– Bryce’s Law

First published: December 17, 2007

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at [email protected]

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Copyright © 2017 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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