- 98% of US companies are small businesses (i.e., fewer than 500 employees)
- Current leadership resources cater only to larger companies
- There is a distinct difference, Dapra says, between small, mid-sized, and larger companies that are typically ignored
At over 35 million, the number of US small businesses is huge—they represent the bulk of the US and international economies. Yet their leadership teams are lacking resources specific to these small companies’ needs, as the currently available business leadership publications are designed for larger companies.
Dr. Jonathan Dapra is the chief innovations officer and co-founder of Alaric, a leadership consulting firm specializing in leadership impact within small and midsize companies. He thinks it’s time to change how people talk about leadership in small and large companies. Dapra, a leadership and strategy practitioner, has partnered with a high-profile team to release a book that is the beginning of that change. From 50 to 500: Mastering the Unique Leadership Challenges of Growing Small Companies is an initial step; it is essentially the guidebook for highly effective small business leaders and introduces Alaric’s distinct data and insights into assessment, development, coaching, and strategy refinement for small and midsize companies.
Dapra was long fascinated by effective leadership in small to midsize organizations. His research showed that extant knowledge in business management neither represented nor applied to smaller businesses and his desire was to fill that gap. He conducted extensive research in his doctoral studies and created a comprehensive small business leader competency model that he labeled Small Business Leader Success Factors© and Derailers©. This research is the first of its kind to be published, and was instrumental in Dapra and his collaborators creating Alaric’s leadership model and small business segmentation framework to help small business leaders to succeed.
From 50 to 500 was a project based on Alaric’s mission statement to be partners to the world’s small business leaders, and was a collaboration between Dr. Dapra as well as his colleagues Dr. Richard Dapra, lauded as an expert in talent development, and Jonas Akerman, former president of BTS USA, a highly acclaimed strategy implementation firm. “From 50 to 500 is one of the world’s first small-business leadership books,” says Jonathan Dapra. “I think of it as a rallying call for small business leaders. I want to begin a long-overdue conversation about the distinct challenges and business capabilities leaders need to produce results within their organizations.”
Dapra and his co-authors identify key characteristics of small companies that often position those organizations for rapid growth. But achieving growth requires leaders to demonstrate great leadership, and that is where the High Impact Small Business Leadership© model comes into play. This intuitive and highly-relevant model empowers small business leaders by defining Motivators, Capabilities, and potential Derailers that are specific to smaller companies. The book discusses the kind of challenges that many smaller businesses typically face and offers a chance for leaders to access the kinds of tools needed to strengthen their leadership effectiveness and accordingly, have tremendous impact across their organization.
“We founded Alaric and wrote this book for the same reason,” says Dapra. “We saw a glaring hole in the leadership consulting market. 100% of leadership books only speak to 2% of leaders. In the US and Europe, governments and academia alike seem to have trouble identifying what different sized companies look like.” Dapra refers to the Small Business Administration (SBA) which uses the rule of 500 to define any company with fewer than 500 employees as a “small business”. Dapra and his colleagues disagree with this black-and-white definition, feeling that attempting to define an entire range of companies by two extremes is insufficient for those companies’ needs.
Dapra points out that there are different types of organizations with different organizational and market challenges faced by their leadership teams. “There are what you might categorize as sole proprietors, partnerships, mom and pop shops, and more,” Dapra says. “With growth comes organizational complexity and a hierarchy. Small businesses begin to look like large companies, but they are still small businesses, and their leaders require a specific set of leadership capabilities to impact their organizations.”
This is where Alaric and the new book From 50 to 500 come in. Dapra and his team recognized that every major academic leadership framework and the range of practitioner solutions are all based on data from large companies. The gap in small business-specific leadership knowledge led Dapra’s team to combine years of academic research, field experience, and client interviews to develop a definitive approach for segmenting the range of companies thought “small,” and then create a small business-specific, easy-to-understand, and actionable leadership model that helps readers and Alaric’s clients self-assess their leadership capabilities.
Dapra points to Alaric and the new book as the pathway to helping small business leaders build their self-awareness and identify capabilities they wish to strengthen and consequently improve their impact across their company. From 50 to 500 is the first and only book to speak specifically to the needs of small business leaders. “Before this,” Dapra shares, “no one was speaking to the leaders who make up the majority of the world’s economies. Imagine a world where every leader had the tools and a coach and partner in developing high-impact leadership capabilities.”
From 50 to 500: Mastering the Unique Leadership Challenges of Growing Small Companies is being published by John Hunt Publishing’s Business Books International imprint. It is currently available for pre-order and will be released in February 2023. Alaric partners with small businesses for assessment, development, coaching, and strategy refinement. The company is preparing a series of web-based assessment and development tools that can be easily accessed and purchased by small business leaders and their leadership teams.
Jonathan Dapra is a leadership and strategy practitioner who researches, writes, teaches, and consults about small business. Dr. Dapra has over 20 years of diverse experience as an executive, entrepreneur, trainer, instructor, and leadership coach. He began his career at Dun & Bradstreet, started firms in the tech and gaming industry, and built the special effects company AutoFX. He was part of the leadership team at Dynamic Graphics, president of Pandromeda3D, and CEO of the middleware company Meta4 Interactive. He later joined The Early Start Fund. Jonathan has worked with EDMC, The Art Institute, and currently, is the Rosenblum Endowed Professor of Business at Plymouth State University. Jonathan has a Doctorate of Business Administration and an MBA in strategy.