Got an interesting story that I think you’ll like:
This morning at our AA media meeting, I mentioned something off the cuff to the boys:
“We’ve got to be more like Sparta, and less like Persia.”
No one had any idea what I meant.
So I pressed harder:
“You know, Gerard Butler in 300.”
I got nothing back… just blank faces waiting for the punchline.
Tough crowd, right?
Now, I’m not sure if this is saying more about me or them, but, the point I was trying to make was this:
What I love most about the movie “300” is what those few hundred men were able to achieve.
Every single man in that army fought so much harder, and contributed so much more, because they knew there were only 299 others. Each man had to go over and above what was expected of them simply because they had no other choice.
Compare that to the Persian Empire, who outnumbered them 20:1.
Compared to the 300 spartans armed with only a shield, spear and a loincloth to cover their gigantic nuts (figuratively, at least), the Persian Empire had many more luxuries.
First of all, there was of course the imbalance in sheer numbers, a handy advantage when it comes to warfare.
Then there were the war elephants, the ‘Immortals’, the battalions of archers, and all the other sorts of crazy war stuff that should have made killing 300 men a breeze.
Yet, and despite these advantages, the Persian empire suffered ridiculous amounts of casualties.
I won’t ruin the ending of the movie, except to say this:
The more time I spend owning a business, the more I realise that “more” is definitely not “better.”
Especially when it comes to staff.
Because more staff equals:
– more lines of communications
– more chances for shit to get wrong
– more HR headaches
– more compliance
– more personalities
– more individual sets of ambition to manage
– more places to hide
– more sick days
– more annual leave
Pretty much more of everything…
Except, one thing, which you get less of.
Which, unfortunately, is perhaps the most important part of all:
Relative output per employee.
As an organisation grows in size, each staff member becomes less and less productive.
This is known as Price’s Law — it states that 50% of the work is done by the square root of the number of employees.
For the non math’s types out there (myself included), here is a basic breakdown of how this plays out:
If you have:
2 employees, the square root is 1.5.
So essentially, both of them are working pretty hard, albeit one more than the other.
But let’s ten times that amount to 20 employees, and you’ll start to see the difference.
The square root becomes 4.
So now, 4 employees are doing as much work as the other 16 do.
When you take that to 50 employees, 7 employees are doing the work of the remaining 43.
Talk about inefficiency.
And trust me, I’ve seen this show up at AA.
The bigger the team gets, the less efficient we become, and I mean that with no disrespect.
When we were 8, we needed nothing else but knowing that we all had each other’s back. We did whatever work needed to be done, under whatever conditions came our way. We live and died for the brand, and the honour we had while serving it.
Which is why, as I start build the Athletes Authority ecosystem synergistically (media agency, the education arm, the sports agency etc), I am taking a completely different approach to growth.
Any addition to the team is decided with utmost caution and trepidation.
Because what is clear to me now –that wasn’t a year ago — is that there is no such thing as too ‘Spartan’ when it comes to business.
– Karl Goodman