Staying Small On Purpose
One mode of thinking has it that a small business is only small for now, that a small business is Rocky Balboa in the first movie, but that it will eventually be Rocky Balboa in the third and fourth movies, fighting Hulk Hogan, Mister T. and Dolph Lundgren in a symbolic gesture to end the Cold War. In reality, some of us like the first Rocky best, and we don’t mind staying on that level. Let’s consider some of the privileges a small business enjoys that even some medium-sized businesses do not:
The personal touch
If your business is small enough, it’s not inconceivable that you might be able to address every single customer on a first-name basis. If you want to know how big companies fare at this sort of thing, ask somebody named Barnabus if they’ve ever found a Coke bottle with their name on it. A personal touch can go a long way to ensuring a strong connection between a business and its customers, and there are plenty of people out there who are willing to pay a little extra for that sort of attention. When your customers are relatively few, it’s a lot easier to optimize your whole business around their needs. One of the best content optimization tips you’ll ever hear is: know your prospects. When your market is relatively small, this becomes incredibly easy.
If Starbucks wants to introduce a coffee made with coconut oil and grassfed butter, the first thing they have to do is talk it through with their board of directors, then the higher-ups who like the idea have to take their time to convince the ones that don’t, then they have people experiment with the formula, then they send it through the process of approval, then they spend a few million bucks marketing it, then they send the recipe out, then the staff at each individual Starbucks is trained in how to make the new drink. If a small coffee shop wants to try selling coffee with coconut oil and butter, they put coconut oil and butter in coffee and see if anyone buys it.
When a major Hollywood movie fails to make its money back, people are fired, millions of dollars are wasted, and everyone else in the industry says, “Let’s make sure we avoid using whichever genre/star that movie used.” You don’t need to worry about that if you’re just collecting ad revenue on Youtube videos you shoot in your office for free. Small business means lower risk, it means that you don’t have to have a smash hit in order to have a success. A $250 million dollar movie is an all-or-nothing scenario, a how-to video series that took you a week to shoot can afford to fail.
There’s nothing wrong with growing your small business into a big business, but that doesn’t need to be your goal if you’re not interested in the headaches that come with it.
Gilbert S. is a writer and artist who lives in Bluewater, New Mexico with his wife and his dog, Sir Kay.