The same three things derail people onboarding into small companies as into large companies: poor fit, failure to deliver and an inability to deal with changes along the way. But the way to deal with those obstacles in smaller companies is different. You must fit with the organization's broader ecosystem, deliver with fewer resources and less structure, and create instead of adapting to change.

Fit with the Organization’s Broader Ecosystem – In a small company, external stakeholders like the board, key customers and suppliers, and the community in which you work tend to be much more closely integrated into the functioning of the organization. It’s important to fit with them as well. Many moving from large to small companies don’t know this. Now you do.

Deliver with Fewer Resources and Less Structure – In smaller organizations, groups are stretched thinner. They have to do things faster. They’re inventing processes and procedures on the way. Things slip through the cracks. People accustomed to everything working like clockwork often get disoriented the first few times the clocks miss a beat. It turns out that flexibility is a learned skill – and an important one for a small company.

Create Instead of Adapt to Change – Darwin told us that survival of the fittest is all about survival of those best able to adapt to change. Almost by definition, larger companies have more moving parts, each of which must adapt to change. If larger companies don’t adapt, they get hurt. But it’s a whole different game for smaller companies. As Damballa CEO, Val Rahmani put it, “We are imposing change on the market.” If smaller companies don’t create change, there’s no reason for them to exist.

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