A teeny tiny enterprise – The SMB rainbow

By   2016-03-26

I like to say, that I don’t own a company, but I mind my own business.

With this being said let us talk (ok, let me write) about the “Entrepreneurial Mindset” or at least what I think of it. Be warned: this won’t be a rant about the “American Dream” (especially since this dream has moved outside of USA, like to Kraków).

After 2+ years in big businesses I would be rather foolish not to have any thoughts about business in general. And I’m going to share my observations on both extremes of the scale: from SMB to the enterprise. And all with some (hopefully decent) IT dressing!

Onward, with your entertainment and my self-therapy!

Lets start small

Let us define a small business owner in his natural habitat. But this won’t be just any SMB owner, this will be a SMB owner from Poland, moreover, from the Polish transformation period. What readers from outside may not know, after the communism fell in 1989 we had an explosion of small businesses. This gave birth to an entire generation of businesspeople. Although I have to give many of them my kudos for colonizing this brave new market of opportunities, I also have to acknowledge their mistakes, many of them revolving around IT.

Cheapskates are gonna cheapskate

One of $owners trait is the post eastern block capability to build something out of nothing. While I would never underestimate the value of creativity this ability has it’s dark side: I’ve too often seen it to become a first and only reflex.

Why buy something, if we can make it? It’s not going to be cheaper (despite some initial hopes) and probably not better. A variant includes buying the cheapest parts possible and/or postponing important repairs or buying really cheap stuff and upgrading effectively spending more money.

Real world example: SMB owner calls me in to troubleshoot a mis-behaving computer, I diagnose the PSU and recommend a quick replacement. I end up being ignored and not a week later a mission critical thing fails and wouldn’t you know it a new PSU gets bought right away.

Boss the all-knowing

It doesn’t matter if you have knowledge about a particular subject and was called in to work on it. The boss may disagree with you.

Real World Example: Boss is adamant about placing the wireless router behind the computer, so “no one will steal it”. I am given a really hard time for placing the router above the door so the coverage would be better. Then boss goes to say, that wifi access is not so important for the guests (it was a hostel), because “we have nice attractions” and they should go sightseeing.

You have no power here

There’s a saying in Poland: “To be the second in command right after God”. While having authority in your own company is kind of a no brainier, abusing this power is what I remember from far too many of my encounters with SMB owners, especially one. I’ve heard an opinion and I must agree, that the generation that built capitalism in this country has little abilities with managing people.

Real World Example: Boss refuses to move an ink-jet printer from atop of a PC and prefers buying new cartridges every time the current ones suffer print-head death due to ink evaporation. I am being called foolish (or inconsiderate, or something along those lines) for trying to move the printer away from the heat source.

The things set in stone

Change is inevitable, no matter how hard I try, I mean erm… , people try to refuse this. While it would be unhealthy to try revolutionizing everything once a week, what I’ve found in at least a couple of SMBs, is the “set in stone” mentality towards some processes and tools.

I’ve heard that one SMB owner used to copy all his documents on the copying machine, no matter the cost and space it took (it was in the “80, so no scanners were available). Why? Why not?!

Real world example: SMB owner decides that certain POS program is the only one worth using and completely ignores the fact, that it requires Windows XP to run and the total cost of maintaining it is no longer worth it. Yet he refuses to try alternatives.

The aftermath

If I wanted to summarize this little SMB hell, I’d say: “Missed opportunities”. Why upgrade and innovate, if everything is perfect? Why perfect ourselves, if we are the best godlike beings, because that what the “90 taught us? But reality comes crashing one day and it’s never a pretty sight.