Pieces working together praca

What I have learned while working in SME

The day has come. Journey I’ve been for more than six years has finally came to closure. I’ve decided to call it a day and quit my job at the place where I was responsible for IT and business development areas. Mostly. But we’ll get to that.

Key input here is that it was – and still is – rather S than M Enterprise. Entire office never hosted more than a dozen regular employees. So what did I learn there? Some of the thoughts gathered below may seem obvious, but I still think it’s valuable excercise – especially for myself – to reflect on this matter.

(this is repost of my article on LinkedIn)

Human relations are key

In a team of such size, you simply cannot avoid cooperating with absolutely everyone. That also means that whole team, not excluding yourself, is more vulnerable to be affected by any personal differences, miscommunications or anything else that may occur between two or more human beings. After all, we’re only humas, with our emotional characters that are sometimes difficult to keep under 100% control. And make no mistake – if something bad or good will be going on, everyone will know about it.

It also puts more pressure on management to address any of such issues as early as possible and in professional manner. I guess it’s not much different than in case of management in any other company, but I believe that consequences of not addressing would be way more harmful in SME than in office hiring more than 200 people at the same time.

There’s pretty much no such thing as „it’s not my job”

I’ve been hired to take care of e-marketing and contributing to business development area in our team, especially in terms of acquiring more franchisees and helping them grow. However, during my first weeks there whole squad, including management, rolled up their sleeves and attended local fairs, where we promoted our service to end customer. Setting up the stall, pumping balloons, handing out leaflets, talking to anyone willing to listen – you name it, everything needed to be done by everyone. Having joined recently, where previously I was hired in company with strict hierarchy and responsibilities’ division, I needed to adjust, and do so quickly.

You won’t get away with ‚but it’s not in my job description’ attitude. Sometimes situation requires all hands on board, simple as that. On the other hand, it may also serve as great teambuilding excercise. Sharing common task and – sometimes – sheer physical work bonds team in unique way.

Flexibility will make things happen

Everyone dreams about the perfect world, where the resources are unlimited and only our imagination sets limits of what can be done. Well, these are dreams only for a reason. Resources are pretty much always limited. In SME these limitations are even more visible. You always lack money, people or time. And yet – things need to be done. And that’s where creativity and flexibility comes into play.

Flexibility means that you will not always do things in optimal way. You will cut corners, you will accept second best offer, you will make compromises in order to make things happen. ‚Done is better perfect’ will be your motto. Especially when you will make something for the first time. It won’t be simple ‚make or buy’ decision, as striving for highest quality within your reach will require maneuvering somewhere in between. Or simply putting some extra hours here and there.

The blanket is always too short, so choose wisely

When they go to sleep, most of the people love to cover their whole bodies with blanket. Or two blankets. Now think about all the stuff you need or want to do in your business. Stuff that stakeholders around expect you to do. Or you have declared that you will deliver. More often than not, the list goes on and on. And sooner than later you find out that pulling the blanket over your head will make your feet go cold. Your resources are depleted. Your day, just like anyone else’s day has only 24 hours and only so much things can be done.

It’s easy to outstretch yourself. And again, with more modest scale of business, consequences may prove to be even more dire. That’s why it is absolutely crucial to choose your priorities super wisely and manage expectations of your stakeholders accordingly. And judging from my experiences, consequences of failing to fulfill already built expectations outweighs profit from actually meeting these expectations.

Even tough we’re small, we can learn from the biggest

During my whole time in SME my fiancee, then wife, was always part of the typical corporate world. More than 200 employees, dedicated teams to any given area, systematized processes, that kind of stuff. Of course confidential nature of what was happening inside her office prevented me to have full insight of how exactly they were working. But still – bits and pieces of information that came to my knowledge where valuable in terms of improving the way we were doing our business.

Some may say that implementing corporate-like standards may kill agile nature of small businesses. However such statement, in my opinion, is based on somewhat wrong assumption, that everything that happens in biggest companies is overformalized and sluggish, therefore let’s try to avoid it. One have to remember, that large enterprises are simply start-ups that achieved success. (of course it’s huge generalization, as many businesses don’t need to scale up to YUUUGE size to be successful). And they improve their results by repetition and improvements over next iterations of the same process. The same thing philosophy may be used in SMEs, as many processes are repeatable as well. So why don’t standarize and improve them over time?

This is just the simplest example. The main lesson here is to keep your head open and be ready to learn from everyone, nevermind the size.

Successes and defeats are shared

Finally – anything that’s going on in the company, good or bad things, will most probably affect you in one way or another. Also your successes and failures will affect others.


That’s it, hope you’ll find this short article useful. And what about you? Would you have something to add or change? Maybe you took the path of going from huge company to SME and have observations from the other side? Let me know!

Prywatnie - bardzo szczęśliwy mąż, zapalony gracz, podobno niezły fotograf. Cały czas uczę się siebie i odkrywam nowe pokłady rzeczy do poprawy. Sporo schudłem ostatnio, to dobrze. Zawodowo - project manager z zacięciem do marketingu...