There are some things that make me laugh, not out loud but deep inside; one is hearing an earnest teenager telling me how their life is going to be, another is hearing someone who has only worked in a large organisation tell me how change would be much easier to implement in a small one!

You can call it the arrogance, naivety, over confidence or simple ambition but we humans (especially us males) like to believe in our ability to have influence over the life and times of others.

So many genuine people from big companies tell me how they would like to ‘help’ small companies.  They assume that a small company somehow needs their help and that without them they can never really achieve their potential. It’s a bit like the famous consultant joke (you know the one where the consultant turns up in his car unannounced and tells a shepherd something he already knows and expects to get paid for it).

When I look back at my time with my own small businesses and indeed working in others, the one thing that comes back to me is, what I like to call, the pinball effect.

When you’re in a big company you can shoot off an idea and maybe, just maybe you will get an almost immediate reaction from someone but in practice there’s a good chance that your idea will simply float off into the vastness of the unknown and only comeback a long time later as someone else’s idea, if it comes back at all.

On the other hand, in a small company, an idea or decision can come back the moment you share it. Even if you are skilled enough to trigger your pinball in the longest possible direction during the coffee break (assuming you have time to have one that is), by lunchtime the whole company knows about it and are filling you in with their ideas as to why it wont work. In effect your idea pinball is frantically bouncing around from pillar to post.

Now the numbers might be the same, i.e. five people come back to you (eventually) in the big company and five in the small one but the difference is, in the big company they are most likely to be all in your own department, while in the small one, it will be the sales director, the finance director (who doubles as the logistics director), the company secretary and of course anyone else who is impacted by it.

Getting things changed in a small company can be harder than climbing a steel pole. Just when you think you have a grip, you find yourself slipping back down again. And the harder you grip, the bigger the chance you’ll burn your hands while sliding back down.

Anyone who has played and mastered the small company pinball machine knows just how fast and dynamic and fun it can be. However, it only takes the gentlest of nudges to get an idea moving in a completely new and unwanted direction, overdo it and you’ll know very soon!

Have a good week,


This week’s one liner:

“In the pinball of life, change management is not about trying to keep your idea ball in play for as long as possible but to align all the flippers and bumpers to ensure that it always goes in the desired direction!”  Harley Lovegrove