Business – what we can learn from large organisations
Like many women of a certain age, I run a business. Mine is the smallest kind as I am a freelancer. I have only myself to manage. Well, that’s the theory, but sometimes it seems like a lot more!
I haven’t always worked for myself. I’ve been employed in the public sector, by a large manufacturing company, by commercial enterprises of all sizes and by several law firms. I also used to run a training company with several employees.
This is what I noticed when I moved from a large organisation to doing all the jobs myself. I was used to going to meetings, often hundreds of miles away, representing my department, Logistics, while other individuals represented theirs, such as Marketing, Purchasing, Sales etc. We would negotiate, sometimes even argue (politely) because we all had slightly different agendas. The factories wanted lots of materials ordered, whereas a ‘just in time’ model meant we were trying to keep stocks as low as possible. Purchasing wanted the new packaging ordered, but Marketing weren’t ready with the graphics. Eventually we would reach a compromise and almost all the time the result was the best thing for the company.
When I started doing all the jobs, the purchasing, sales, marketing, accounts and everything else, I noticed that I was swapping hats. It might have been me doing everything, but whichever hat I was wearing, that would be my priority at that time. I found it really helpful to think of my business having various departments, even though they nearly all had only one staff member: me. I would negotiate, even argue, with myself, swapping hats furiously, until I worked out the best balance between the different areas of the business. It really helped to have worked in a large organisation and to understand that every business has all these aspects; the only difference is scale.
Now that I work freelance, I still negotiate between departments in my business. Small as it is, there is still an Accounts department, HR (for training and to make sure the staff behave), Marketing, Purchasing, Sales and of course Production. Oh and there is an IT department but they are very rusty and quite grumpy when something goes wrong!
Even when we are running a tiny business, it can be helpful to remember that it has all the aspects of a much larger enterprise. This can help us balance all the necessary tasks and projects and make decisions. It’s also often helpful to look at what cutting edge companies are doing and see where we can replicate these approaches in our own set up.
If you run your own business, do you look at it like this? Can you draw on your previous experience as an employee and scale down the big ideas? How could that help? Please share your stories, thoughts or questions in the comments below.