The perfect sized business may be smaller than you think

Ben Ackland
Co-Founder & Managing Director

I’m not one to dictate to others: I’ve seen enough of the world and worked with enough exciting people and businesses to know that variety is, truly, the spice of life.

And yet in my experience as a Director, managing businesses and leading in negotiations and collaborations with our clients and partners, there are certain things that I see time and time again. One that is often on my mind - but I think is rarely talked about - is that the perfect sized business may be smaller than you think.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not here to bad-mouth companies of different sizes. I’ve previously been the Director of a company of sixteen people, and they were all talented, insightful, and creative in their roles. We achieved some amazing things together.

But honestly, as a leader of a business, sixteen felt like too many. I have deliberately set out since then to build a successful company with a team of just six.

I’ll probably write a separate piece on our NIMBLE approach, because it’s worth the additional time, but in short, we believe that a small business should be adaptable, lean, and creatively responsive to challenges - rather than just throwing budget or people at the problem.

With six people, there are always enough heads in the conversation to cover all bases, but few enough that things actually get done. Everyone in the business understands and knows our mission and our values, and we can be selective enough to ensure that we recruit for them. It means building deeper relationships with a few, rather than superficial ones with many.

These may appear to be soft skills, but they have real-world tangible benefits for us as a company. With stronger relationships comes better collaboration. With a greater understanding of each other’s strengths and opportunities for growth, we create outstanding solutions. With resilience built into the business due to smaller numbers, we each take more personal responsibility.

Of course, we work with some much larger companies - one of our largest clients is made up around 30,000 people. And yet as you’d imagine, it’s the ten or so people in Head Office that we speak to most regularly, and it’s those individuals that we have built the strongest relationships with.

In essence, we treat them as a business of ten with an audience of thirty thousand.

Staying small on purpose is very different from stagnating growth. Small because you’re struggling, because you’re not meeting client expectations, because you are losing work...that’s not the ‘small’ that you want to see in a business.

I want to be delivering the very best work to our clients so that they stay with us, refer others to us, and recommend us to their network. Don’t get me wrong: I want our business to grow!

But not necessarily in headcount. Where needed, we know freelancers and consultants worth their weight in gold that we can bring into a project or client work, and that flexibility enables us to keep lean. Our nimble approach allows us to evolve and adapt far quicker than the larger companies with processes and red tape holding them back.

That’s why we also love working and collaborating with small businesses. A good idea can take flight with wings unhindered by committees, boards, and long drawn out decision making processes. A great idea can move even faster, and start to deliver results before bigger companies have even agreed on which new team will tackle the problem.

So for me, a small business is the perfect fit. It gives room for flexibility in terms of skill set and expertise, and allows positive professional relationships to thrive. It delivers the impact for our clients without increasing overheads exponentially.