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I recently was sitting on my back porch losing myself in the majesty of my resident hummingbird — a Ruby-Throated female to be exact.   She had me completely mesmerized and I could not help but be in awe of her small but mighty presence, which led me to reflect upon what she can teach us in the world of business…


A hummingbird is one of the world’s smallest birds, probably not news to many us.

Her size is one of her greatest assets.   Her shoulder and elbow joints are very close to the body, which allows her to pivot and tilt.   Hence, she can hover or accelerate instantaneously.  She can change direction mid-flight — forward, backward, up, down, and even upside down.

She is Nimble.  Agile.  Acrobatic.

When you are a small organization like Riverbend, these characteristics are relatively easy (and rewarding!!) to maintain.   When you are a large organization like many of our clients, these characteristics are trickier to sustain.    Hierarchy, processes, approvals, and red tape start to make any decision feel like moving the Titanic.   A hummingbird vs. the Titanic.   My money is on my little feathered friend missing that iceberg every time.    Nimble, agile, and acrobatic are essential traits to leading change, responding to market demands, and being responsive to client needs and expectations.

Here are two ways to help you stay “small”….

  1. Stay as organizationally flat as efficiently possible both in design and in decision making.   By the time an innovation gains approval, it is no longer innovative.  By the time your client finally gets your response, they have gotten their answer elsewhere.  You cannot be nimble with layers weighing you down. You also cannot move quickly if your people don’t have the power to say yes or no – this takes equipping, but it is possible, just ask Nordstrom.
  2. Avoid the silo mentality. We all know this, right?  We do, but it still happens.  How often do you hold cross-functional meetings? How often do you reflect upon a market or vertical outside your space?  When we stay in our lane, we lose our ability to hover and look at things backwards, sideways, and upside down.   We get in a rut looking only in one direction – our own.   Getting out of your silo provides acrobatic perspectives keeping you, your team, and your organization ahead of the curve.


A hummingbird is one of the world’s fiercest birds.  Now THIS is probably news to many of us.

These small fighters successfully repel intruders, larger birds and even us, humans, from their food sources and their territory.

It is almost like she has nothing to lose.  But really, she has everything to lose.   She MUST defend.   She has the highest in-flight metabolism of all the birds.  Without her constant food source, she does not survive.   Every meal counts.    She knows it.   So she fights for it.   She cares.   She is all-in.

She is Courageous.  Passionate.   Focused.

When you are a small organization like Riverbend, these characteristics pump through your arteries.   They are the lifeblood of your business.   You care about every single client and every single client project not only because you want to, but also because you have to.   One lost client or deal hurts — badly.   You take it personally.     When you are a large organization like many of our clients, these characteristics start to fade.   “There is always the next one.”   “There are plenty where that came from.”  “You win some and you lose some.”   Large organizations start to mistakenly equate size with power, quality, and being unbeatable.  But wait, there’s that David and Goliath story.    When you are a small organization, you fight and defend a little bit harder.   You ARE mighty.   When you are a large organization, you can start to lose that hunger.  You start to assume that you’ll win the deal and that if you don’t there is more where that came from. You start to assume that clients will stay with you merely because you are “large and in charge.”  You THINK you are mighty.

Here are two ways to help you stay “mighty”….

  1. Check in with your clients.   Why do they choose you?   Why do they stay?   What can you be doing better?   Let them know that THEY still matter to you — that they are worth your time to just sit, talk, and evaluate how things are going.   Be proactive.  They will notice.   And you will help shore up your territory.
  2. Evaluate your close rate.   So how many deals do you win?  How many do you loose?  What are you leaving on the table and more importantly what are all the things you could be doing with the revenue or strategic wins that you have lost?    Create an awareness and reignite passion by putting a number on what you have lost and what you could have done or could be doing with that loss — incentive plans, rewards, PTO, adding new verticals, making that much needed infrastructure investment, recruiting top talent…

A big thank you to my winged-teacher for the time she shared with me this week.   She was and is the perfect reminder to never, ever underestimate the power of the small, but mighty.



Author Doreen Linneman

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