Transferrable Skills Between Small and Big Businesses
Taking an in-depth look at how skills can be transferred across big and small businesses and projects.
Most people working at Exo Digital have a side hustle or two, which puts us in the unique position of having a broad skill-set across a range of areas, which we leverage to Exo’s advantage.
Working for a small business that actively encourages us to pursue personal projects and interests allows generalists to become specialists and specialists to broaden their skillsets. This benefits both us as individuals and Exo Digital through learning, developing and expanding our knowledge.
Getting the inside scoop
We spoke to a handful of people in the company who have a wide range of experiences across many different types of businesses. We wanted to get their views on what small businesses and projects can learn from the processes and systems in place at big businesses and vice versa.
Generalists vs. Specialists
In a small business like Exo Digital, you are likely to find that the company or project is still in the discovery phase of the business lifecycle. They’re learning, growing, scaling and are likely to be a team made up primarily of generalists rather than specialists.
In a big business like ANZ, you will probably find that the opposite is true. It’s a mature business, in a very different stage of the business lifecycle, and is mainly made up of permanent specialists working in their areas of expertise.
"There will be people at ANZ who are generalists, but there are also people who are really specialised in their field and have been there for 20+ years doing one thing really well. It’s great if you need to lean on someone, there’s always one person who lives and breathes that specific skill and can help you." - Maxy, Designer at Exo Digital
As a big business, you might need more generalist skills and a fresh pair of eyes to give you a different perspective on something you’ve been doing the same way for years. As a small business, you might need someone to come in with very specialist skill to help fill a gap that you cannot serve from the current skill bank within the company.
"It only takes someone to come in and give you a push in the right direction. That’s what Exo provides, both with small and larger businesses." - David, General Manager at Exo Digital
Having the experience of working in both big and small businesses gives you the ability to see where these gaps in your skill base are and the knowledge you need to fill them effectively.
Sometimes, it might mean temporarily bringing someone into the company, in the form of a contractor or freelancer, to help you achieve a goal. Other times, you might have to get somebody on permanently to fill a skill gap as your business scales up and expands.
The systems and processes in place at each of these companies will vary based on their size and needs. However, some of these processes are transferrable and relatable no matter the size or stage of the business, for example, conducting user research or ideation exercises.
The more extensive processes, like managing teams involved in decision making, wouldn’t scale from a large company to a small one. In the same vein, some of the processes that work within a small business would cause too much friction and confusion if they were to be adopted by a larger company.
"With Exo, we have a weekly showcase where we do design presentations or more informal chats. For the team at ANZ, it is a more formalised process. Because there’s so many people, we have to have a spreadsheet of who’s presenting when, and we have to send an agenda." - Maxy, Designer at Exo Digital
Developing new skills
Whether you work for a large corporate or in a small start-up, gaining experience across different areas before specialising in a specific field can be beneficial to how you approach problem-solving within your role.
Suppose you’re starting out in a large company. In that case, you might find that you automatically start to specialise in the specific area that you work in because the skill bank available is so bountiful that you never have to venture outside of your expertise. This can be great for young designers to be allowed to hone their skills before trying to swim more broadly.
Whereas, if you’re starting out in a smaller organisation, you are thrown into the deep end and have to quickly adapt to being pushed out of your comfort zone. You have to be comfortable with sometimes not having the answers and up-skilling to have a broader skill-set with which to problem solve.
The benefits of consultancy in business
Consultancies are fantastic for filling the gaps in knowledge and skills needed at any stage of the business lifecycle in any size company. No matter where you’re at, your business can benefit from figuring out what your skill-set is and then working towards improving.
In smaller companies or teams, you need someone to fall back on. Being able to accept your limitations as individuals and as a cohesive team is vital to moving forward and growing.
"Having someone at Exo come in and challenge the way you’ve been working is very valuable. Even if you were doing it fine, having that forced time to think about and reflect together as a team is important for any business." - Maxy, Designer at Exo Digital
If you have a product or project that you’re developing and you get to a point where you’re not sure where you’re going with it, a consultancy can give you the boost you need to move forward.
"Exo goes in and figures out what you need and where you need to go. We do the investigation around the problem and then target resources needed to complete the project or build the product out." - David, General Manager at Exo Digital
A business works well because everyone is trying and is generally positive with each other. You hear a lot about how the processes are slower at a large company, and it’s very risk-averse. It happens when a business is mature enough, and that’s natural.
"As long as everyone understands what their limitations are and be able to work together to overcome them when necessary, that’s why they keep succeeding." Maxy, Designer at Exo Digital
If we look at building a website and the people involved in that process, there are many moving parts. When you have a large team separated into different areas of expertise, you start to feel those barriers in the website. You can feel the change in the teams as you hop around.
In a smaller business, you benefit from having a seamless experience, but the website might be a bit smaller or have a few unfinished pages. However, the designers working on it will know the entire experience end-to-end in their heads, and it’s easier for them to see the gaps.
"For a big business, it’s having people check in on that is very important; but also making sure that you have the right people and communication in place." - Maxy, Designer at Exo Digital
Consultancies help to have someone come in and throw some ideas around, challenge what you’ve become comfortable in, and find new, better ways to get things done.
"At the end of the day, businesses will work well because of the people who work there. It’s about building a team, no matter how large the team is, of people who share a common vision, understand each other, communicate effectively with one another and are able to solve differences of opinion, at any scale." - Maxy, Designer at Exo Digital
To explore ways of how your business can benefit from a diverse skillset across both small and big business, reach out to our consultants for a complimentary strategy session.
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