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Opinion: Scrappy, small-business attitude can bring team together

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We have a saying around our office at People Centric Consulting Group. It’s heard when someone on our team is doing something not normally expected as part of their job.

For example, we ordered some new desks for our office, and one afternoon our team was sitting on the floor together assembling the desks.

The saying is, “hashtag small business,” and it’s spoken with pride.

Looking back to when I started working for 3M at the corporate headquarters almost 20 years ago, I was shown to my office space and my supervisor gave me a phone number to call to set up my office. I was a little confused as I looked around. I had a desk, a computer, a chair, a table, shelf and a filing cabinet. It all looked pretty set up to me, but my supervisor insisted that I call, so I did. The voice on the other end told me they would be at my office in an hour.

An hour later, a person showed up to my office, introduced herself and explained that she was part of 3M’s ergonomic department. Her responsibility was to “fit” my office to me. She evaluated my chair, my computer, my keyboard and everything else. She decided to replace my chair, because I am tall and it didn’t have proper support for my back. She ordered me a monitor stand to raise my monitor to eye level so I wouldn’t hunch over, then installed a keyboard tray so the keyboard would be at the proper height. In my previous position, I barely had a desk or a chair, so this was all very strange to me. However, I must admit, when she was done, I did find the office more comfortable.

These kinds of resources are available within large businesses but not within small businesses. Small-business owners and their employees have to be scrappy. We have to figure things out for ourselves and oftentimes find ourselves working on things that don’t fall within our particular expertise.

Some businesses do everything themselves, and it comes with a price. While running a tight ship, they lose sight of the bigger picture of the business. When I used to do my own bookkeeping, I spent way too much time trying to figure it out, making frequent mistakes and missing out on other things I should be doing to grow our company.

Small businesses should surround themselves with experts to provide key services and insights so they can stay focused on culture and strategy.

Other small businesses spend almost too much time doing everything for their team to keep them focused on their core work. The excess can sometimes have a negative impact on culture.

Doing everything for your employees can create a “that’s not my job” attitude that can easily spread into their normal work tasks. It also takes away from the basic problem solving and learning opportunities that bring camaraderie and great stories for the future.

Small businesses should take a balanced approach to outsourcing tasks. Many of our own #SmallBusiness moments have been beneficial to our team and culture. Assembling desks on the floor of our office gave us a chance to hang out as a team. We laughed, cursed, collaborated and problem solved together in a setting where we could quickly see the fruits of our work. Even today, I think about the experience fondly as I walk by the desks in our office.

As the owner of a small business, it is even more important that I am willing to work and do things for the team and the company. Even the smallest gesture of picking up a piece of trash found on the floor or scraping ice off someone’s windshield at the end of the day becomes an opportunity to demonstrate compassion and connection with the team.

The universe of the small business is filled with opportunities to help team members feel like they are an important part of something, even when they are doing other duties as assigned. Outside insight is critical to the success of a small business, as is nurturing a scrappy, problem-solving culture, where team members learn to work and play together.

Don Harkey is the owner and CEO at People Centric Consulting Group. He can be reached at


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