With 2009 coming to an end, I wanted to spend a few minutes looking back at some of the things that had a positive impact on our company this year. Scaling down ended up at the very top of my list.
One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made developing our company and growing the business is scaling up for the sake of scaling up. In the beginning of the year, we had a team of more than 15 people working on countless projects, both client projects and internal projects. There was a lot of activity, a lot of business, and in general a lot of things happening. It certainly meant bigger revenues, but definitely not bigger profits or better results. A lot of time, energy, and resources were wasted in management, administrative duties, meetings, supervision, client relations etc.
Over the course of the year, I gradually scaled the team down. I was getting very tired of managing the team and dealing with many clients – and felt frustrated that not enough work was actually getting done to grow the company and promote our own projects. It started very naturally last March when I had to let go of our Office Manager who wasn’t a good fit for us. Instead of actively looking for someone new (which is what I would always do), this time I asked myself “is this position really necessary for the company?” And I decided to see what would happen if we simply moved on without filling this position. And then when 2 employees left the company in August, here too I decided to see what would happen if I didn’t replace them. The results were impressive! It’s not only that we were able to continue just fine – we were actually doing much better! Higher ROI, wider range of services, better clients… in short more growth. Real company growth, not more people, more clients, or more revenues.
We now have a much smaller team - a team of talented individuals. And we achieve much better results! We produce higher quality, we innovate more, we’re more creative, and we pick our fights! (i.e. we choose our clients instead of taking on all comers.) Most importantly, I find working with a small team much more enjoyable. I spend more time working and less time managing, meeting, supervising, etc. If your team members are great, working is not only satisfying – it’s also very enjoyable.
Even if your company is huge, or you are working on a monster project – keep the teams small. Break your army into smaller, independent combatant units. 5 people or less is a good size for a team to be productive – especially if you’re in a creative industry.