We love a good story. We love a story where people overcome big obstacles to succeed. In fact, one of our favorites is that of the dedicated entrepreneur starting in a garage or bedroom and building a multi-national company worth billions. We love that story. It’s the business-world equivalent of winning the lottery.
When I first started my business, I ran into an old acquaintance. I shared the news that I’d gone out on my own. It had only been about four months since I’d made it official. So when he asked me how soon I intended to sell my business, it took me a minute to understand he was serious.
Sell my business? I WAS my business. It wasn’t exactly possible to sell my business if I didn’t go along with it. But as our conversation continued it became clear that he didn’t consider a business “real” unless it was big enough to sell.
When did we get so focused on the idea of making it big that we overlooked the potential success of staying small? In general terms, it’s easy to understand why we overlook small. When even our fast food options offer a supersized version, it’s not surprising that we’re all but programmed to think big. But every entrepreneur and every idea isn’t a perfect fit for an enterprise solution.
I suspect our focus on big starts on a subconscious level. Many entrepreneurs can’t help but think about the possibilities of building a successful franchise business, getting bought out by a bigger competitor, or reaching the pinnacle and becoming a business leader. It’s probably in entrepreneur DNA. If we’re willing to go out and create something from nothing, why not go big?
However, if you’re an entrepreneur thinking about your options, do yourself (and your business) the favor of thinking about being small. It most likely means a different type of success, but it may also be the model that fits you and your ideas best.
1) You still have flexibility.
Ever notice how flexible kids are? They seem to do contortions that as an adult would put me in traction. It’s the same principle with business. A smaller business offers both flexibility and agility that’s more difficult to come by in the enterprise world. Plus, if the worst happens and you need to adapt what you do, size does matter.
I look at RIM and the mess that is now BlackBerry. Yes, they previously ruled the smartphone world, but look at how fast they went from being big to being ignored. There’s something to the idea that their size (and egos) worked against them, and when they needed to adapt, they instead floundered. It’s not impossible for big companies to change, but consider just how much harder it is for them to do so.
2) You won’t need as many employees.
If you pursue a business that requires multiple employees (e.g., 20, 50, 100 people), you bear the burden of all that comes with needing people to do the work that needs doing. You’re dependent on someone else’s willingness to do the work. You’re dependent on someone else’s health allowing them to show up for work. Even though there might be some sort of Obamacare tax credit for insuring new workers, the cost to benefit ratio just may not be worth it. And perhaps most costly of all to you, you bear the emotional burden of taking on responsibility for having created the job in the first place.
3) You have the time to make it personal.
One of the best parts of staying small is that you can keep that personal touch. You’re more likely to know your customers not just by name, but also know something about them. This level of knowledge gives you the opportunity to deliver personal and memorable service that’s rarely available at a big scale. And depending on what product or service you’re offering, that personal touch may be the difference between being a flash-in-the-pan or a long-term success.
There are cons to each of the benefits highlighted. But that’s the point. For every positive associated with going big there are cons, too. And if you’re serious about figuring out the best path for your business, your objective isn’t to ignore that reality but to stay open to the possibility. Stay open to the idea that a successful small business offers the perfect fit for what you want as an entrepreneur.
By staying open to the idea you give yourself what every entrepreneur often has too few of: options. So don’t cheat yourself out of having one more option because you just assumed your business needs to be supersized.
So what do you think? Does this make sense? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.