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12 Jun 2017

NBlog June 12 - nothing small about business

As a small business, we have to do much the same stuff that any business has to do, such as:

  • Marketing, promoting and selling our products e.g. maintaining and updating our websites, preparing advertising copy etc.
  • Procurement and sales administration - licensing, invoicing etc.
  • Customer and supplier relations
  • Financial administration: budgeting, accounting, tax, expenses, pay & rations
  • HR & personal development
  • IT - hardware, software, firmware, wetware and - yes - IoT
  • Information risk and security, including awareness (golly!)
  • Strategy, governance, compliance 
  • Planning, resource allocation, priorization
  • Market and competitor analysis
  • Research and development
  • Operations/production - working hard to make the products we sell
  • Quality assurance and quality control
  • Packaging, delivery and logistics
  • Elf'n-safety
  • Blogging and other social marketing/social media stuff

In our case these are on a smaller, simpler scale compared to, say, a multinational megacorporation, but they are no less important to the business. The key difference is that (with some exceptions, namely our elite band of trusted advisors and specialist service providers) we rely on ourselves - our capabilities, expertise and skills across all of those areas, rather than calling on departments, teams and individuals who specialize. That necessarily makes us generalists, Jacks-of-all-trades with the attendant practical constraints and risks. We are constantly juggling priorities to meet deadlines.

On the other hand, being personally involved with virtually everything going on means we don't have the regimented hierarchy, internal communications issues, corporate politics and so forth of larger organizations. We are glad not to suffer the enormous inertia and conservatism that plague large, mature organizations, nor the attendant overheads. We don't need to consult the rule books, check the policies and refer to the procedures to get stuff done. We can make substantual changes almost the very moment we decide to do something different, provided we have the resources - the knowledge and time mostly but also the motivation which stems from doing a good job, being respected and most of all being commercially successful. Minimal overheads help but still we need income.

One of my tasks for the past week has been to prepare bids for a couple of prospective customers against their formal Requests For Tenders (RFTs) no doubt prepared by vast teams of procurement and legal specialists over the preceding weeks or months. Whereas they were able to spread the efforts and costs of planning, preparing, reviewing, approving, issuing and administering the RFT's across several people and functions representing a tiny fraction of their organizations' total activities and costs, we have no option but to dedicate almost all of our available resources to bidding. It's disproportionally costly for us, yet we have little option if we want the business.  

We're used to squeezing a quart from the pint pot but going for the whole gallon, well something has to give. With deadlines approaching and assorted jobs piling up on the side, I may be blogging less often for a while. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible. 

On the upside, the more bids we prepare, the more efficient and effective we become at doing so. At least, I tell myself that's the cunning plan that stops me becoming totally snowed-under.


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