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Jack Welch on Company Size and Success

by Vincent Chan on Nov 24, 2009


With all the hype about the advantages of small company size in recent years, does growing big really mean failures to your company?

Bill Taylor, cofounder of Fast Company, just wrote a great article on the relationship between size and success on his Practically Radical blog. He recently did an interview with Jack Welch, the legendary former CEO of General Electric. And one of the themes of their conversation was about company size.

While Jack agrees the disadvantages of big institutions, like waste and bureaucracy, he still believes managers and entrepreneurs should want their companies to get bigger. He said:

For one thing, it’s evidence that you’re winning in the marketplace. For another, it gives you the opportunity to bring in more people, which gives you access to more talent, which allows you to tap into more ideas, which you can then spread more widely – and start winning all over again.

In this talent age, which companies don’t want to get more brain power? But for many companies, managing talent is the hardest part. How can a company scale without suffering the costs of size? Jack has an answer for us:

“I want to be big, but then run the company like it’s the corner grocery store.”

Obviously, this sounds easier said than done. And some people even argue that GE was never run like a corner shop either. But that doesn’t mean it is unachievable.

In fact, there are many new companies which are BIG and SUCCESSFUL in the past decade. For example, Google, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Salesforce, VistaPrint, Research In Motion, Zappos…etc. All these companies were started by a small team of people. But right now, they have thousands of workers, great corporate culture and tremendous success.

After all, IF you have the management skills and leadership to make your company remain quick, responsive, and flexible, why stay small? (Assuming you have an ambitious goal).

Don’t be remain small just because people think you are cool.

Start small. Grow big but remain agile.

In the future posts, I will dig into different strategies that help growing companies to become smarter and remain quick, responsive, and flexible.

Photo source: januszbc @Flickr

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