Friday, December 28, 2007

Small companies are like small theatres

Sitting at my mother's kitchen table on a stormy English night...

I had the privilege of going to two very small theatres in the the last week. First was to see Othello at the Donmar Warehouse - starring Ewan McGregor as Iago and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Othello - and then a few days later to see Honk at the Watermill. Both theatres seat about 200 people and in each case we were seated within 4 feet of the stage.

When watching a production in such a small venue you see the inner workings of all aspects of the production. You are close enough to see every bead of sweat, every small facial expression. Close enough to see the machinery behind the stage changes (even if it is only a character picking up a glove while running off the stage). It is quite unlike the large London or Broadway productions where you are struck by the machinery of the production - where hundreds of people are organizing in the background instead of a few players and musicians plying their craft at arms reach.

It's like a small company. When you work in a small company every employee pretty much sees everything. There's no room to hide anything or make it look like a major production. There's no one working behind the scenes like you have in a large company where the system makes things happen around you.

Because I believe in the transparency of small companies I hold a meeting with my employees every quarter where I make a short presentation on how things are going and then take questions. At these meetings I will answer any question (unless it is clearly confidential personnel information) and share all the inner workings with my employees. I figure a) they are investing in the company with their time and careers so they have a right to know and b) seeing the inner workings is a big part of the fun.

So, like the theatre, when you are in a small team, or a small venue, you certainly see the sausage being made.

Too much of a stretch guys ? :)

p.s. Othello was stunningly good. Ewan McGregor was brilliant and chilling as Iago and his evil manipulation would fit in well at the more political large companies. Chiwetel Ejiofor was heartbreaking. It's the first time I've had tears pouring down my face watching the death scene.

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