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Business Agility - Does Size Matter?


By J. Gary McDaniel, TCV Growth Partner -


How do small businesses compete with large corporations having far greater resources, established brands, entrenched products, and global market reach? Often, the answer lies in their superior agility.


We tend to think of smaller businesses as being more agile. This makes sense when you think of small teams and easier communication. In addition, we know that small companies and startups consciously conduct customer discovery, probing to discover their customer’s most urgent current and future needs, and testing different ideas. Therefore, small companies have their fingers on the pulse of their markets and can respond to changes quickly and effectively. To use an analogy; smaller ships can turn quicker and go faster than bigger ships.


However, being able to master the changing tides of the business world does not have to be, nor is it, the sole domain of small companies. Size really doesn’t matter. It is more about attitude, culture, and how you conduct your business. Many large companies such as Dell, Barclays Bank, Panera Bread, Adobe, and General Electric have undergone performance management overhauls to make themselves more agile.


There are five characteristics of agile organizations that distinguish them from more traditional companies:


1. Agile organizations have a shared purpose and vision. They are flexible regarding resource allocation and, in terms of strategy, they can sense and seize opportunities, giving them an edge competitively.


2. Agile organizations generally have a flat company structure. They have hands-on managers, all roles are clearly defined and employees are empowered to fullfil their purpose.


3. Agile organizations are dedicated to transparency and continuous learning. They have a “fail fast” attitude, meaning they are open to experimentation. Even if these experiments fail, they still represent valuable learning opportunities.


4. Agile organizations encourage role mobility and entrepreneurial drive. Engaged employees want to delve into the company and help where they can. Agile businesses encourage this thinking and drive.


5. Agile organizations prioritize effective, user-friendly technology that facilitates decision making, communication and feedback.


Do these characteristics sound familiar? They should. They are the hallmarks of small companies and startups. And many large corporations have been paying attention. While they may never be as quite as agile as a smaller company, many large corporations today can move much more quickly than you might think…don’t underestimate them!


Want to make your business more agile? TCV Growth Partners has several experts on our team that would be happy to help!

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