Why do big companies suck?

Many small companies aren’t that good and medium ones too.  The real question then is why, if at all, do big companies suck more than smaller ones. I’m not sure they do, certainly not when I put my selfish consumer hat on. I own a Honda Civic, an Apple iPod and a Black & Decker cordless drill, three good products made by three very large corporations. These products are relatively cheap, well made, and part of what I’m buying is faith the company will be around in five years if I need repairs or support for these things. A smaller company probably couldn’t provide low cost, high quality, products and promise they’d be around in the future.

And when I fly I’m glad my airplane is made by Boeing or Airbus, and not some local startup company run by people working from their garage. But there are some things that tend to happen when companies get big that are problematic for independent, creative people – and that’s what I’ll explore in the list below. Why big companies suck:

  1. The soul has left the building – All big companies start as small companies. But by the time a company has 500, 1000 or 50,000 employees, many of the people who made the small company successful have left and their spirit went with them. You can have a financially successful company that is mostly banking on the ideas and successes of people who left years ago, but whose middle-managers take credit for what was mostly inherited the day they were hired. When things go bad, none of the ‘leadership’ has any of the tools required to fix, rebuild, or recreate the pattern of success that started it all.
  2. Obsessive Optimization – When you have 5,000 employees, or $500 million in revenue, fractions become significant. A .5%  increase in revenue is not a small thing, it’s a big thing. It can be bigger than many companies’ entire revenue. And as companies age the culture looks to optimize and refine, eventually to a point where the good things that led to all the success have been whittled away. Managers at big companies often have more incentives to minimize costs, than to find new business or develop new ideas since minimize costs or optimizing an existing process are cheaper wins that show results in the short term. In an optimization centric culture, the myopic love of short term wins can make long term improvements which often require short term sacrifices hard to achieve.
  3. Addicted to bureaucracy –  I travel often and visit with companies of many sizes. It’s fascinating to visit places where there are 20 people doing work I know is done by 3 or 4 at one of their competitors, often with better results. It’s strange to see smart, senior people who have forgotten it’s possible in this universe to make things happen without talking to a committee, filling out forms, or doing extensive market research. The bigger a company gets the more dependencies there are between decisions, which makes it natural for committees and approvals to grow in number.  But it’s easier to add processes than to remove them. Over time bigger companies accumulate process, it gets inherited, and no one can even imagine a simpler more autonomous workforce. Big companies should have dedicated process simplifiers, senior people who just run around, point our areas that can be leaner or simpler, or where line level employees should be more autonomous, to keep this tendency in check. Or once a year every manager should be forced to work on a small project (like a website), where 3 to 5 people are responsible for everything. It’d refresh their sense of how little process is actually necessary.
  4. They believe their own bullshit – Any large group of people functions because of shared beliefs, but their are both positive and negative kinds of belief. The negative kinds are the ones that involve lies, distortions of truth, and a lack of perspective.  Company all-hands meetings can feel like political rallies, where  a reality distortion field prevents any valid questions of the company from being mentioned, and all bad news or mistakes are whitewashed away. When you’re banned from using competitors products, even when they’re better, or not allowed to critique and criticize decisions even when they’re dumb and bad, it gets harder and harder for good ideas to rise because real thinking is prevented. When the party line is BS, the wise start to keep their mouth shut, and look for other jobs.
  5. The Peter Principle – When you have several layers of management it’s entirely possible the manager isn’t contributing much, and the line level employees are mostly self-sustaining. If a manager inherits a successful team, a team self motivated to improve, and it does under his management, he may very well be promoted for simply being around at the right time.  There are many bad reasons people get promoted, and it’s more likely to happen in bigger companies, where there is more ambiguity about who is contributing what.
  6. It’s hard to fire people – Big companies get sued more often because they have more money. And on the day a small company gets it’s first law suit for wrongful termination, or discrimination, everyone runs the numbers and concludes it’s cheaper, on paper, to prolong the process for firing people and increase the amount of paperwork about employees managers must create, than it is to lose lawsuits.  Performance evaluations, mid-year reviews, and all of that are heavily (but of course not entirely) motivated by lawsuit prevention and defense.
  7. Corporations can be psychopaths – In 1886 the U.S. Surpreme court ruled that corporations were entitled to the same protections as people. This was a big deal. It made it possible for executives to make decisions on behalf of a corporation that were illegal, or ethically questionable, without being directly liable for them, and gave constitutional rights to entities that were not people.  Combined with the motive for profit, there are lines big corporations are lead to cross that no indivudal ever would, since the entity of the corporation is held responsible, and not necessarily the individual leaders.
  8. Status quo / Follower mentality – The bigger a company gets, the more it’s main attractive power for new employees is job security, rather than opportunity to grow, learn or take risks. The Innovator’s dilemma is real, and leaders who have big sucess are often the last to recognize when it’s time to move on. For anyone interested in progress, risk taking, change or growth potential, a large company is incredibly frustrating, as the dominant psychology is one of play it safe and political correctness. A running joke at Microsoft used to be that the best way to get a product idea to ship at Microsoft was to have a competitor do it first.

The list can go on I’m sure (but there could also be an equivalent list of why big companies are great to work for). What did I miss on this list? Leave a comment.

84 Responses to “Why do big companies suck?”

  1. Drew @ Cook Like Your Grandmother

    Nit about the USSC ruling: Most of the Wikipedia article focuses on the fact that the court in fact intentionally avoided the question of corporate personhood. This “obiter dictum” statement has been relied on ever since as the basis of legal treatment of corporations. Without it, the corporate psychopath couldn’t exist.

  2. SG

    I think that labor specialization leads to its own brand of suckiness.

    For example, at startups, the IT infrastructure tends to be managed by the same people building the product, and request fulfillment is generally an order of magnitude faster than in the large IT departments in which I’ve worked.

    Given that the quality of the deployed infrastructure was actually higher in the startups, I have to think that some aspect of separating people into specialized groups leads to suckiness. Maybe it’s because there are more places to “hide” poor talent in a large, multi-group organization, or maybe it’s just a matter of motivation, I don’t know.

  3. Mike Nitabach

    Big companies should have dedicated process simplifers, senior people who just run around, point our areas that can be leaner or simpler, or where line level employees should be more autonomous, to keep this tendency in check.

    This is a great idea! Universities could definitely benefit from this, too!!

  4. Glen B Alleman

    This of course is HIGHLY domain dependent. From my office window I can see several of our clients:

    CH2M Hill
    Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company
    Northrup Grumman
    Ball Aerospace and Technology

    None of these multi billion firms have any of the attributes you list.

    When the firm produces an exciting, state of the art product. One that chances the course of the world. One that causes grown men to cry when it fails and cry even more when it succeeds – locate the video from the JPL control room when the Mars lander reported back that it had arrived and was working as defined.

    You need to drop the cynic view and come visit those of us who do “cry” at the launch of our “baby” on its way to orbit or Mars.

    Glen B. Alleman
    VP, Program Planning and Controls
    Aerospace and Defense
    Denver Colorado

  5. Alan Lunk

    I do agree with the list here. It is ironic to see that companies become big because they were once creative but that within their success lies a poison that kills the visionary spirit.

  6. Branimir ?orluka

    Hi Scott,

    Great article!

    Regarding Addicted to bureaucracy, actually a lot of big companies are using methodologies to improve their processes.

    What you call “process simplifers” is actually called process owner in the BPM methodology.They are trying to achieve a process oriented organization in contrary to current functional organizations.


  7. Helmut Kazmaier

    Thx for the great post.
    With all the layers of management the decision makers get more and more detached from real customers. They lose focus on what it means to be a customer of their company. An inside-out perspective predominates and leads to many of the symptoms you describe in your post.
    What’s your opinion on getting big companies to shift to a outside-in perspective and put themselves in their customers shoes in order to focus on what’s really important?
    Would like to hear more on that.

  8. Dwayne Phillips

    Don’t forget that government agencies – all of them really big – suffer the same maladies. Plus, they have people who act like morons as senior executives. Proof, if they were really bright they would be making 10x the money as executives in private industry.

  9. KoW

    Working myself in a big company (hey, it has got its benefits! ;)) I do see one pattern again and again: the higher people are in the hierarchy, the shorter their TTL is, therefore they better make the most out it in short time. Nobody has got a real interest in the situation of the company in five years from now (either you have been promoted or kicked), so everything is streamlined to look good for the next bonus round …

  10. JustTheGraphicsGuy

    Based on my experience in big pharma it seems to me that personal responsibility for decision-making is avoided like the plague. Low level people are not empowered to make decisions while middle and high level people are too busy trying to fly under the radar, afraid to make a mistake that will cost them later in terms of future promotions, bonus etc. As a result, they spend much time getting “buy-in” from as many other people as they can find who, like them, are afraid to take a position that could expose them to the potential for being held responsible for the ultimate decision should it not succeed as well as expected. Result: projects either go into limbo or die on the vine.

  11. Michael Bolton

    I have lived through the experience of a small company changing into a (bad) bigger one. That experience included each one of the items on Scott’s list.

    I know people at one of the companies named in the comment above by Glen Alleman, and those people would disagree with his claim that “None of these multi billion firms have any of the attributes you list.” Note that Scott referred explicitly to bad big companies. Note also that VPs tend to have a perspective that’s different from the line workers. It’s rare to hear an executive saying “Man, the paperwork we have to deal with around here is all total B.S.”, because either they’re not subject to the paperwork, or there’s an admin to handle it for them. It’s equally rare, in my experience, to hear a VP or a
    CxO say, “We should cut down on the bureaucracy” or “We should hire an admin for that group so the people in it can work more efficiently (as I do).”

    —Michael B.

  12. Christa Avampato

    Hi Scott,
    I think this list applies to big and small companies alike. Any company that has lost the principle that their people truly are their very best asset will suffer, particularly in this economy. Good talent, if not appreciated, walks eventually.

  13. Joel D Canfield

    I’m sure it’s embedded in the others you’ve listed, but another flaw more common in large companies than small is the disconnect between authority and responsibility.

    In a big company, it’s easier to tell the IT staff “If you just work faster, you can get more done in less time.”

    When ‘IT’ is one person and they eat lunch at your desk with you, that ain’t gonna fly.

    My friend Tom Berarducci (27-year veteran of an enormous corporation whose name begins and ends with ‘K’) is writing a book called ‘What Not To Do’ with lessons about everything on the list here. I’ve read the first draft, and it’s smart and funny and useful.

    Oh, a nit of my own: “many companies entire revue” sb “many companies’ entire revue” (Plural possessive. Sorry; I’m editing three books right now and it’s hard to turn off.)

  14. Jim

    I think the worst moment in any (bigger) company is that when people just resign. I feel that everytime I hear at a meeting in my company “that’s not my business”, “I don’t care”, “Can’t change it” etc. that a small part of me dies inside.

    Because “that’s not my business” when in fact it’s most important for the employees in the team… than what should be the motivation to ever change something for the better?

  15. Scott Berkun

    For the record none of these things are universal conditions. If you have a good manager, or a great VP, they can create a very different environment underneath them that is superior in culture/quality/morale/productivity/etc. inside the big company.

    That is one advantage, of several, of a big company – there can be a wide range of management styles and cultures inside one company.

  16. lauren cramer

    I would add that in large companies there is the silo affect. Many large companies are public companies and can’t share information with their employees or it’s considered insider trading. This creates an atmosphere of only knowing what’s going on your department and what is relevant for you to get your job done. When you see the big picture and what other teams are working on, it gives you a feeling of being more deeply involved. You feel like you have a little piece in every part of the pie versus just your small slice. At least that is what I’ve experience being in small company that grew to a larger one.

  17. chromatic

    Success justifies the means. A company that’s survived 25 years or has hundreds of employees or is the leader in its field believes itself to have done something right — even if no one can agree on what that something is or reproduce it.

    (Absent) founder envy. A company with a strong, charismatic founder who started most of the business units and is still around in some leadership role will suffer trying to find or develop replacements for the founder; they need several smart and creative people, but none of them will get the resources they need to succeed out of a corporate sense of loyalty.

  18. Shuje

    Excellent piece.

    I worked at a company from day zero (5 employees) for 7 years (1200 employees when I left.) I resigned partly because I could not adapt to the very things you mention in this article. It was so frustrating.

    The successful suckups, the self lying, the useless processes. I might add there is a powerful disconnection between people when numbers get bigger. The sense of family run business slowly fades and gets replaced by an “every man for himself” attitude.

    Your suggestion for a Process Uncluttering Process :) seems like a good initiative though. I would applaude companies that on their way to getting bigger try to stay small were it matters the most.


  19. Joe Enos

    All very valid points. I’ve done the small companies and two gigantic companies, and it’s so much nicer day-to-day working at the small ones. It’s easier to get things done, easier to get noticed by your superiors, and just generally more pleasant.

    I’ve done the whole small-to-large company transition, and it’s not a lot of fun. Little-by-little, productivity gives way to committees, personal responsibilities turn into group decisions that never get made, and bonuses and benefits turn into mathematical formulas on how the owners can line their pockets the most.

    The big advantage for large companies would seem to be stability, but that really doesn’t hold true for me – I worked for two of the oldest and largest companies in the country (Montgomery Ward and Bear Stearns), and both are now gone. Just bad luck for me, I guess…

  20. Pawel Brodzinski

    The thing which I hate about big organizations is lack of trust. You just can’t tell what you think or share your opinions because odds are it will turn against yourself. You can’t really expect you get honest opinions from your colleagues. It’s all, to some point, about office politics.

    I can play by these rules but at the same time I hate it.

  21. Joel D Canfield

    Pawel, while I’d put ‘lack of trust’ under Scott’s first point (soulless) I like that you brought it up. It’s easy to build trust with a small group. It’s nearly impossible with a large group.

  22. Pawel Brodzinski

    Joel, I’ve taken ‘soulless company’ more like a place when you come just to get a paycheck but you don’t care anymore. But I agree that there are very similar (or the same) reasons which take soul away from the company and kill trust between people.

    There’s one thing I’ve realized reading the article and comments. Being ‘big’ starts with very different sizes when you just count people. In its soul a company of 200 can be small or big. I’ve even seen a company of 50 which suited the picture drawn by Scott.

  23. JoyfulC

    I’m not sure what you’d call it, but they seem to spend enormous sums marketing for new customers, while failing to do what it takes to keep old customers. Every time you phone technical support or customer service, you hear “All our operators are currently busy. Your call is important to us. Please stay on the line for the next available operator.” And lately, it’s not uncommon that you hear that AFTER you’ve already been through some sort of menu. Once you do reach a real live person, that person, more often than not, isn’t empowered to help you if you truly have a problem. Mostly, they’re only empowered to help people who aren’t bright enough to follow installation instructions, or whatever.

    I appreciate that companies do this to reduce overhead and increase profits, but what they may not realize is that I REALIZE that the manpower they’re saving themselves is made up for by ME. I have to do the work, I have to put in the time, and I’m the customer.

    This has led my household and my business to pare down to the bare minimum in our dealings with any companies that do business this way. We no longer have cable or satellite TV service. Our phone service is the basic package. We use free or open source software whenever possible.

    It’s not like we’re just cheap — we paid through the nose for services and products for decades. And if we’d been treated decently, we’d still be paying. Now when we receive some flashy marketing piece from the phone or cable company in the mail, we just laugh and wonder how much it cost them to send it to us. They might as well save that money too because our business is gone. For good.

  24. Vicki

    To Glen B Alleman – Hold on there!
    You don’t work at these clients, yet you “know” they don’t have _any_ of the problems Scott lists? Are you pyschic? Have you interviewed all of the employees?

    Even for your own company, I hate to tell you this, but you’re a VP. The higher a manager gets in the org, the more likely s/he is to think that all is well. Employees see suckage of the company; execs see a few malcontents and complainers.

  25. Pierce Hickey

    Conway’s Law – the larger companies get, the more it impacts their ability to get anything done.

    I believe one of the main reasons that Agile approaches work is due to explicit emphasis on reducing cross-organisational friction, by making as many participants as possible work closely together, ignoring the classical organisational hierarchy.

  26. John J Gorse

    Thankyou Scott,

    6:08 AM (11 hours ago)GIVEN IN from Who’s Country Is It Anyway? by ConcernedCitizen

    We think on the same simplicity versus complex bureaucracy.


  27. Randy

    Now just think of the U.S Government as the the biggest company in the world …

  28. Rajesh Kumar


    This is an outstanding read. High on EQ and common sense. The Soul Has Left The Building… will be my all time favorite.

    I once wrote my views on “Great Workplaces”, you might find something in there to add to your article.


  29. Wilt Alston

    Very thought-provoking list. I wonder how many of these items of suckage would go away without a huge, bureaucratic state to enforce and/or create them. (A government agency is the best example for many of these maladies.)

  30. anata

    peter principle corolary:

    Time is spent covering your ass instead of working. Meaning when you are really a big corporate runner-up, you manage for the person next to (or better under) you to do your work, and be responsible for your mistakes.

  31. Joe Topinka

    I have worked for public and private companies and in both instances management gets hooked on monthly and quarterly performance results. Focusing on financial performance leads to short-term focus and it drains creative energy. New ideas aren’t welcome unless that have a very short ROI. I agree that as companies grow new managers tend to take credit for the ingenuity and creativity of past managers and creative thinkers.

  32. Mark

    You really hit the nail on the head here, Scott. I wonder this all the time, particularly as I see firsthand the, on average, much better service provided by staff at smaller companies (the nonprofit I work for runs an annual top small company workplaces competition to find those that are engaging employees most effectively for stronger sales and better community relations).

    I think the big reason why some (not all — just look at the Container Store) big businesses suck is that they inherently have huge hierarchies and bureaucracies which can intimidate and lesson the perceived power of low- to mid-level employees. In short, many people in these companies don’t think they have a voice; and often, they’re right because they really haven’t been given a voice, and a chance to see how their work impacts the business.

  33. Willy

    When companies grow sufficiently large, the HR department moves from being an agent for the employers to a group whose sole focus is risk reduction.

    Employee needs to be fired? Shroud it in as much secrecy as possible and forget about employee morale.

    Employees need training? Get it done as cheaply as possible since the goal is the record the employee is trained and not how effective the training.

    The list goes on, but the best friends of an HR department in a large corporation are secrecy and budget cuts.

  34. Robert Young

    @ Dwayne:
    Proof, if they were really bright they would be making 10x the money as executives in private industry.

    No proof there. Much of what is done in government is not exactly the same. Much of the time it is crook-catching of one sort or another. Those that want to be crooks work for corporations. Those that want to catch crooks where white hats and work for government. Unless you assert that all government functions should be outsourced to corporations. That would be the world of “Robo Cop”; not one in which I would like to live.

    Note also that most corruption in government is in service (so to speak) of corporations attempting to defraud the citizenry, either directly or through the government.

    Socialism can work, if the society wishes it. The Scandinavians have managed it for centuries. And they live longer for less.

  35. Ofek

    My personal #1 reason is divided responsibility. It directly leads to politicization of the work environment, and to channeling energy to placing blames and self-promotion. Personally, I see it as the root cause for most aforementioned symptoms, and (sadly) I consider it unavoidable – the larger an operation is, the smaller fraction of it can be under individual responsibility. It is just inherent in growth.

  36. Bernard Dy

    Scott, I love this post. Too bad the execs that need to read it won’t, and even those that do will likely ‘pooh pooh’ the points.

    I have something to add that wasn’t specifically mentioned: Big Companies Change Constituents. Many of your points are related (especially “The soul has left the building”), and of course this doesn’t happen to all big companies, but I think that when a company is small, it is focused and passionate about serving a key client need. As it grows and becomes public, the customer changes; it’s no longer the end user, but the stockholder. Stockholders don’t care about the quality of the end product, don’t care about the end user, and certainly don’t care about how the company’s employees are treated. It becomes all about quarterly results.

    Again, this wouldn’t apply to all companies but as I’ve struggled with my frustrations with large companies, this thought came to mind. It is a special company that can deal with the pressures of public ownership and still maintain some of the intangibles that tend to fade with age and bulk.

  37. Pat

    I think this is a great piece and I wish that the big chiefs at the big bad companies would take heed.

    I am just about to go through my 2nd Company buy-out in 3 years. I changed companies after a year and a half after the last one. I was at a small company with issues, but where every one knew each other, what they were supposed to do and what they did/did not do, who to go to and yes… who to blame etc. Talent was appreciated (if not financially rewarded), decisions could be made, progression was tangible and things could happen quickly. Those were the good old days. I think what we have to accept that organizations like that, to be successful, will either have to change to compete with the big guns or they will be acquired. Unfortunately, we need to learn to deal with them and get the best of the positive things that they have to offer. Financial security is not something to be scoffed at…even if you do risk losing your soul and creativity.

    1. Nicky

      Well i will say about it, private companies give big shock to there juniour employes. I mean we only look for job and we only stuck in such situations wich gives problems and unstable life.., but still i wanna say If Private sactor give chance to any employe they naturally become responsable for their succsess and failures as well.
      If any company or job can not give security why the hell people go and run behind it. I worked in a company as a designer in mumbai (india) got to switch in 3 months and keep on switching till 3 years. As if sombody (Pvt. Sec.) is making fun of my unemployment.
      Anywasys, that was a difficult time so i accepted it as a stuggle of young age. But i really wanna rais my voice and also want to add people who are suffring with same probs. Because in rude words, private companies not only sucks young humen blood infact they steel mony and very pricious time of life. Because as per my experience i could do so much better and productive work during those days when i have wasted into Silly private jobs.
      Wake up World., We need to work more n more to improve the quality of private sactores.

  38. Loopgru

    Just one point of note- there is actually no original ruling explicitly granting corporations legal personhood and status in the US. The ruling in question included an obiter dictum (essentially a non-binding editorial) from one member of the court opining that said status was understood, but as it was not a part of the ruling itself it sets no precedent.

  39. Real

    Great article and soooo true. It all resonates with my experience and I’ll add this for my two cents worth. Big companies are obsessed with their unchallengable authority. They are not wrong, ever. In their eyes it is always someone else, and they can pin the tail on the donkey of whomever fits the crime and move on with apparent impunity. The guy who suffers is down the ranks, always.

  40. Peter

    Good article and I recognize a lot of this.
    The only thing is that the Job security argument doesn’t really hold anymore if the company is focussed only on saving costs (implemented by reducing hourly rate).

    I am working now at a big company and expecting our site to close down within a couple of years. If it does, the main reason will be that we self-destructed because the soul is gone, and because we spend more time administering and planning the work than actually doing it. Also, there is a culture that prevents innovation from within so we depend entirely on feedback from external customers, and that means that one feedback loops takes a couple of years.

  41. Josef

    There’s one more reason I’d offer: Parkinson’s law. I’ve read the original paper in awe, and the English wikipedia page at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parkinson's_law give a cool summary:

    He [Parkinson] explains this growth by two forces: (1) “An official wants to multiply subordinates, not rivals” and (2) “Officials make work for each other.” He notes in particular that the total of those employed inside a bureaucracy rose by 5-7% per year “irrespective of any variation in the amount of work (if any) to be done.”

    Replace “official” with manager, and look at many companies’ 5-7% growth in staff from a new perspective.

  42. Scott Berkun

    Josef: Parkinson’s law is always interesting. Arguably the role of a good engineer or manager is to work against it.

  43. Joe McCarthy

    Just saw your recent [re]tweet about this article (which I didn’t see when you first posted it in January). Interesting and provocative, as usual.

    I also just read Robert Scoble’s more recent analysis of why Google can’t build instagr.am, which offers both corroboration for some of the issues you raise – e.g., “Google can’t keep its teams small” aligns well with your point about bureaucracy – as well as a few additional considerations – e.g., “Google can’t reduce scope like instagr.am did”.

    I find myself thinking of the Dr. Seuss classic, The Lorax, e.g.:

    Well, I have my rights, sir, and I’m telling you
    I intend to go on doing just what i do!
    And, for your information, you Lorax, I’m figgering
    on biggering



    and BIGGERING,

  44. gumby

    I have lived the corporate life for so long, it’s nice to hear other people notice the same things..

    You hit the nail right on the head.

  45. Kyle Lussier

    Agree …. great post!

    The optimization obsession one is particularly true as large companies find growth more difficult, they end up focusing more on squeezing the life out of their people and their vendors to increase profitability.

  46. jack

    Here is an inside tip of whats going on at the Sears Holding Corporation. In most of the Kmarts nation wide Appliances are sold at Sears registers and appliance salesmen are commission based. Well as of June 12, 2011 Kmart will be eliminating these salesmen jobs. All appliances will go through kmart registers and no competitor price matching will be given to customers. Inventory will take up to two weeks to replenish. Minimum wage cashiers will sell appliances not real sales people. Customer will have to call a 1800 number if they want there appliance delivered. This company is dead. The store my friend works at has 4 sales people that each sell over two hundred thousand dollars a year in inventory. You should blog about this.

  47. Drew @ Willpower Is For Fat People

    The store my friend works at has 4 sales people that each sell over two hundred thousand dollars a year in inventory.

    That’s nothing to brag about. Assume 100% markup and no overhead. That means they’re only generating $100k per year in profit. That’s maybe $50k for your friend and $50k for the store.

    If it were my store, and salespeople weren’t doing any better than that, I might get rid of them too.

  48. E chabot

    Very good paper. As an employee of a giant corporate landscape company, I was looking for affirmation of my frustrations. Thanks to the new boom in the contracting of efficiency experts such as Mckenzie, we can look forward to increased pressuring of employees and further watered down corporate goods and services.

  49. John C, Spring TX

    Thank you for this; it is refreshingly honest and insightful. I was with a large oil & gas company in Houston and all of these are painfully present. As the economy lifts itself up by it’s own bootstraps I think people will start to slowly migrate to smaller mid-size companies and reap the benefits. I see the creativity and inspiration available at a small or midsize company benefits that cannot be quantified though exist on a very personal and individual basis.

  50. Mike

    Nice article!
    Also, corporations monopolize industries, disrupt local economies, and stifle innovation; as their widespread presence and products influence the masses. And they fuck up the environment!

  51. Louise

    My comment relates to “Why Big Companies Suck”, and more close to home how, I spent 20 years coming up through the ranks a savy smart employee (or so I thought), remained of the opinion that large organisations and their leaders were basically honest. A female in a male world (yes Banking)I never questioned the ethics of “big business” I told the truth I didn’t play the politics “I suffered”. The GFC happened, it will happen again, because the large gobble the small, In the eyes of all but the small, big is better. The regulators concentrate all efforts on the small, they can manage them. The large have political sway and are just “too hard”. Small entities can grow faster, comply, have some control over ethical behaviour, they are nimble, employees know each other. Takeover, of course big is better. 5 employees doing what a 100 do at the large organisation, are cast aside,end to end knowlege of he process combined with economies of scale are ignored, better stick with the spaghetti jungle already there. Accountants by the 100, a couple of engineers needeed but nobody thinks. I was from a “small company” perhaps 10,000 people even there I reached the glass ceiling not being female, but the inability to lie was my downfall. It was not until a large takeover, the process, the due diligence or lack thereof, and the self servring motives of those with most to lose and most to gain that I really learned. Ethics is a word best scrapped day 1 at a large Bank. Lawsuits with genuine underlying rationale and should have provided final recourse are met with the largest lawfirms. Who at the start of proceedings open with the comment “we will break you”. The sad thing is irrespective of “breaking individual”, they broke the smaller entity and all that was good about it, a culture despite some players at the top, that was decent , ethical and a great place too work.

  52. Bartholomew

    Imagine you hold a lemon in your hand and you squeeze it. What’s left?
    This is exactly what happens in a big company…a human wreck is what remains.

    The higher you are in the hierarchy the more brown nosing ou can see…a rat race is ‘detectable’ too…all to generate profits for you big company.

    1. SortingHat

      Thanks for describing EA Games!



  1. […] Why Do Big Companies Suck? Scott Berkun may well be the next Peter Drucker. His books on innovation, project management and his web writings are the motivating force for a significant wedge of next-gen leaders. The bad press given to Big Cos is not one dimensional and unintelligent. With thought leaders like Berkun fueling the crowd, the bigs are painted as virtual penal colonies where creativity is shunned. It’s bad for your employment brand. […]

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