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  • Writer's pictureNicole Papaioannou Lugara

Size Matters... When It Comes to Business Size

Over the course of my instructional design career, I have been lucky to work with a wide range of businesses in many different industries. I've had clients who were solopreneurs, small businesses, mid-sized operations, and massive enterprises.

Today, I wanted to talk about some of the key differences IDs should consider when working with these different sized organizations.

The Solopreneur

This is the one-person team with a dream. Those who hire learning designers are often subject matter experts (coaches, consultants, trainers, etc) who are looking for help creating impactful learning experiences for their clients. In this case, you're creating something for an external end user, rather than internal.

Why They're Great to Work With:

  • One person means you won't be dealing with a "too many cooks in the kitchen" scenario, and you can build a positive working relationship.

  • They're often passionate about the subject matter and excited to see ideas executed.

Potential Challenges:

  • When it's a team of one, that person is usually overwhelmed with tasks, meaning it can be difficult to get projects done quickly / on time.

  • Because they're working with external end users, they may look to you for guidance on marketing learning solutions, not just designing them.

Small Business

Small businesses are privately owned organizations. Each industry has its own set of small business size parameters, defined by the Small Business Association (if you're in the US). The criteria are measured either by revenue or number of employees.

In general, though, if the business has less than 100 employees and makes less than $5 million in revenue per year, you can probably consider it a small business.

Why They're Great to Work With:

  • Small businesses often don't have it in their budget to have full-time staff dedicated to L&D functions. I've typically found them to be appreciative of the help of an expert and open to creative solutions.

  • Small businesses are more agile because of their size, which means your learning solutions have the potential to effect change in an organization more quickly and assess results more quickly.

Potential Challenges:

  • Small businesses typically operate on smaller margins and have smaller budgets when it comes to L&D-related things. Free and low cost solutions may be prioritized over best in class solutions.

  • Team members can be overwhelmed, as they're asked to play multiple roles.

  • If the business is growing rapidly, scalability can be a concern. Will the solution still work when there are 50 people to train at a time instead of 5?

Midsize Business

These are typically businesses with over 100 but less than 1000 employees.

PROTIP: In the US, SMB is the acronym used for small to midsized business. International organizations use SME (small and medium enterprises)-- not to be confused with the ID's SME.

Why They're Great to Work With:

  • This is the happy medium between small business's small budgets and enterprise level organizations with all of their layers of approval.

Potential Challenges:

  • Scalability must be considered. A 100 person organization can quickly become a 400 person organization.

  • Communication silos are common in multi-layered organizations.


Enterprise level businesses are typically large corporations with over 1000 employees. Their organizational structures may have many departments and layers of management.

Why They're Great to Work With:

  • Big business can come with big budgets to throw behind innovative solutions.

  • They typically have a defined brand, vision, and culture (whether its positive or not).

  • They often have the means to do thorough data collection and analytics in order to evaluate effectiveness.

Potential Challenges:

  • Creating change within a large organization can take time. It's like turning a large ship-- not as agile as a small speedboat.

  • There's a good chance you'll need to receive approval from multiple stakeholders / departments, which can add complexity to the creative process. It can be restrictive, particularly when it comes to brand usage.

  • Enterprise organizations are often international, so you may be dealing with content localization.

Remember, these are generalizations. Each organization will have its own unique operations and needs.

Regardless of which type of business you're working with, I always recommend a discovery call / meeting when kicking off a new project together. These can help you start to get a feel for the organization and its challenges, so that you're prepared to craft a proposal and/or hold a meaningful kickoff meeting (depending on where you are in the process).

Not sure what to ask? You can get a FREE copy of my Discovery Call Question List-- the real one I use with my consulting clients.

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1 comentário

Gabby Grimaldo
Gabby Grimaldo
28 de abr. de 2021

This was so helpful Nicole! I've been trying to decide on which kinds of clients to focus on and I knew that org size would definitely be a factor. Thank you!

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