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Key Idea: Plan to Stay Small

Small businesses, with smaller management groups, are more flexible and responsive to changing dynamics in the marketplace.

Key Question:


You can grow to your perfect sweet spot and not worry about getting big.  Major corporations often suffer from their size. Communication within the business is a major challenge; often, the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing.

What do you think it was like for MFR when they moved from one of the world's largest accounting firms to their own company?

Imagine reporting upstream through countless levels of local and corporate headquarters' management and then moving from that environment to one where you ARE corporate headquarters' management. The founders of MFR will tell you that it was scary; no one to pass the buck up to. But they'll also tell you it was exhilarating, too. All of a sudden, they could do things THEIR way. They kept what they liked about Peat Marwick, and they modified what they thought should be modified. Sure, they had forms and checklists, and they continued to have meetings, of course, but the administrative trappings of a small business are so much less than a major organization. This results in a feeling of energy and freedom, where you don't feel bogged down by your reporting responsibilities and the requirement to build overwhelming consensus before you can take action.

How do you keep that "small company environment" as you grow your business?

It's a challenge, no doubt. There are drawbacks every time you make it more cumbersome to conduct the affairs of your business. Before you add a form or a meeting, ask yourself: Do I really need this? Recognize that you just made business a little more complicated, that you just took a little more of your employees' most valuable asset, their time, and measure the anticipated benefits against that cost.

Keep meetings to a minimum, keep them short, avoid the middle of the day, and keep the attendance limited to the people who have to be there. When is the last time you went to a meeting and walked out thinking, "Wow, what productive meeting, we got a lot done!' Look for other ways to communicate in your organization; many meetings have no other purpose than to keep people informed of what is happening in the business. Start a company newsletter with all the people who would have attended these meetings named as contributing editors. The important thing is to meet rarely and quickly, so everyone can get back to the business.

Think about it

What would be the perfect size for your company?  Would you measure size by revenue, by number of employees or by profit?

Clip from: Mir Fox Rodriguez: A Study of Resilience

Houston:  Mir Fox & Rodriguez is a CPA firm in Houston.  Their most important product is their public accounting know-how, but this is also a very important story here about turning adversity into greatness.

Most CPAs do not think of themselves as entrepreneurs. They see themselves as players on the team of companies headed by entrepreneurs. Carolyne Fox admits that she would still work in a big, world-famous CPA firm if she had not been forced to leave by a merger.

In this show two of the three founders were fired, "assisted out" by a Big Five firm; they were not invited to become partners. That was 1987. The good-old-boy network weighed woman and minorities by a different standard. Yet, when these three decided to work together, the sum of the whole equaled an entrepreneurial powerhouse with balance, vision, heart and soul. Though they know and respect the rules, these three are also redefining them.

While Gasper Mir works in the community and brings in new clients, Carolyne Fox manages the service side freeing Roland Rodriguez to develop new businesses and work with their offices in Mexico and South America.

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Mir Fox & Rodriguez (CF)

Carolyne Fox, Founder

1900 One Riverway
Houston, TX 77056
713 662 1120

Visit our web site:

Office: 713 662 1120

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1988

Plan to Stay Small

HATTIE: (Voiceover) So here we see out of adversity comes greatness.

GASPER: We started off with the idea that we were going to be a top CPA firm in the city. So we had to establish the image of being a top CPA firm. We got first-class space, first-class offices, first-class furniture, and went out to get the top people. I learned in that first few months the criticalness of looking at your cash flow projections.

CAROLYNE: And when we opened our offices in this building in January of '88, we had three employees. And they always got paid first, and then we tried to pay ourselves as we could.

HATTIE: But when you started, you had to go out and get some business...


HATTIE: So how did you shift in your mind and how did you organize your time to get the business and do the business at the same time?

CAROLYNE: We worked really hard. But every entrepreneur will tell you that there's a lot of blood, sweat and tears in starting your own company. There's a lot of things that we did for ourselves that now we're fortunate that we have other people in the organization that do it for us. But you're right. When you start your own business, you do everything.

HATTIE: Wasn't it a big cultural shock? Because, again, I've never worked in a big company. But was it a culture shock for you--were you saying to yourself, `Oh, my gosh. All my amenities are gone'?

CAROLYNE: No, it was wonderful. It was absolutely wonderful, because I never realized, and I don't think my partners realized, how many forms there were to fill out at a big firm, how many meetings there were to go to, how many different people there were to be accountable for, as opposed to just going out and getting it done. So that kind of freedom that comes with the entrepreneurial office, which I think we've maintained as we've grown, that kind of incubator where you're free to think, to try new things, to recognize they didn't work and abandon them, and go on and try other new things. You can't do that in a big firm

ROLAND: No question about it, relating to the entrepreneurial spirit in that, you know, I want to be controlling my own destiny aspect. Secondly is that part of the work that I had been doing at the firm was mergers and acquisition work, which is a very, high-level, high-valued type of advisory work. So I had been involved in seeing firsthand individuals create wealth. So there's a big difference between working for a living vs. creating wealth.

HATTIE: Exactly.

ROLAND: I wanted to be in control of my own destiny. I'm not risk-adverse. And I did want to create wealth. So from that standpoint, I mean, those were some of the criteria. Having our own firm gave us that flexibility to do that.

GASPER: Fortunately for us, our focus was working with entrepreneurial companies, but becoming more business advisers as opposed to just auditors.

ROLAND: How are we going to position ourselves to be able to compete in the next millennium, in the next, you know, generation of business opportunities? And it's not going to be the traditional business. Why? Because the world's changing. And I saw an opportunity, once again, that MFR was the platform for the creation of ideas.

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