Mena's Counterpoint Corner: In defense of big

Mena's Counterpoint Corner: In defense of big.

Clearly annoyed by all the attention on small teams, Mena Trott goes on the record to defend big
(relatively speaking). I especially enjoyed her comments because she’s
in a unique situation — she’s seen Six Apart go from 2 in a bedroom to
80+ spread all over the world. Her perspective is valuable and
respectable. And her passion is clear.

Some of my counterpoint thoughts on her piece:

Tunnel vision is less likely to happen when new eyes view a product specification or wireframe.

We don’t do product specs or wireframes so we don’t have that problem 😉

And if someone’s going to trust us with their baby pictures or the blog
they’re using to promote their business, they want to know we’ll be
around even when the novelty wears off.

I wouldn’t say a lot of employees and owing a lot of
money to investors is any guarantee of longevity. Quite the contrary in
fact. I’d rather put my faith in a debt free, profitable, frugal
company than a company burdened by significant long term debt,
liabilities, a hefty payroll, and direct competition from Microsoft,
Google, and Yahoo. But of course that’s my own biased comfort level —
everyone needs to make those decisions for themselves.

Someone in our company noted that they have never been at a company
where the engineering teams got along so well, so respectfully. That’s
a huge thing in our book.

This has nothing to do with size. It has to do with
environment and corporate culture. Big or small, business is about
people. If you want to have a great team you have to treat them with
respect, provide a great working environment, and communicate clearly.
To their credit it sounds like Six Apart does that.

While it’s important not to repeat the sort of big money spending that
doomed so many 90s dotcoms, there is something to be said for not
having to make your employees sleep in your guest bedroom/office.

Ryan has never slept at my place. David did once, but
that’s because we couldn’t get him a hotel because of my
procrastination! Man, if I’d only had Backpack reminders back then…

If someone doesn’t fit the role they are in, there’s a very good chance
that they can do something else better within the company. A number of
people have been able to move into a different position (and even
department!) months after their initial hiring. A larger team allows
this flexibility.

And herein lies one of the big problems with bigger
companies: reshuffling instead of removing. If someone isn’t doing
their job maybe it’s time for them to go. It’s a lot easier to hide bad
performers at a big company. In a small company everyone needs to be at
the top of their game or it’s noticed very quickly.

Something as simple as having someone to call who speaks your language is a *huge* reason to want to be a Six Apart customer.

She’s absolutely right about that. Scale does give you more power to localize.

the end of the day, we all need to work with companies we like, on
products we love, and with people we respect. If that happens at a big
company then that’s great. If people find smaller companies a better
fit for those qualities, then that’s great.

We’ve found being
small has helped us build the best products we can build. Apple’s a
huge company that builds fantastic products. And Six Apart has clearly
found their own formula that they’re happy with. So there’s a lot of
different ways to get there.  [Signal vs. Noise]

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