When you are a start-up or a small business, it can be hard to find suitable business partners to team up with.
Sometimes the services your business needs can feel expensive and out of reach.
Other times the support and personal touch that you need is simply not there.
The problem could be that you are trying to work with grey squirrels.
Who are the red and grey squirrels?
Recently I had the pleasure of listening to Prof Donald MacLean who used the analogy of red & grey squirrels to explain the differences between micro enterprises and big commercial business. He explained why forcing micro enterprises to conform to big businesses systems doesn’t work, and that actually the businesses that need to change their approach are the big businesses.
As I looked out of my window in beautiful Perthshire, Scotland watching the resident red squirrels enjoying the nuts left for the birds, I started thinking that this analogy was also apt in the accounting world.
Now I appreciate that this analogy may not be strictly correct with the true nature of squirrels but, like Prof Donald Maclean, I’m going to use some artistic license so bear with me.
Red squirrels are small, agile, lightweight, resilient, creative, efficient and community led. Grey squirrels, in contrast, are big, heavy, slower, controlling and internally focussed.
Why is it important to choose the right squirrel to work with?
I hear regularly from my red squirrel clients, that those big grey squirrel accounting firms charge them lots of money, and they don’t get much in return. They only get in touch and respond to emails when it’s time to do the accounts and tax returns.
What a red squirrel client really wants is someone that understands their business, and is at the end of the phone to support them when they need it. Another red squirrel, like JGBC.
Us red squirrels are smaller, more resilient, more community-based. We move faster and climb higher in the trees to avoid danger. We look towards the future and we’re more creative.
Don’t get me wrong, not all big accountancy firms are grey squirrels. Some have lots of red squirrel type people working for them and that allows a good balance. But often this isn’t the case and the dominant grey squirrel gets its way.
How can you spot a red squirrel?
Red squirrels often have lots of ideas or to stay with the analogy ‘acorns’ which we scatter around then dig up and we’re good at spotting which ones are still fresh (successful ideas) and which to leave behind ( ideas that didn’t work or were not as good as we hoped) . We are careful to create the best conditions to store them and share ideas with our peers, instead of greedily gathering everything to keep for ourselves.
We red squirrels, may not have a fifty-page business plan for building a fabulous business making millions of pounds. Unlike the grey squirrels who will stick rigidly to their plans because it’s what the investors have been promised. Because we think on our feet and adapt. red squirrels still have a plan for our business, but it’s often in our heads or on a one-sided piece of paper.
So, if you’re a red squirrel, it makes sense to seek out other red squirrels that understand you and grow with you.