How to Gain a Big Advantage by Being Small

In case you’ve been hiding for the past year or two, I’ll let you in on a secret: being small is a huge advantage. Big businesses no longer hold the power - you do.

I’ll let Seth Godin back me up on this:

“Small is the new big. Recent changes in the way that things are made and talked about mean that big is no longer an advantage. In fact, it’s the opposite.”

Here’s the thing though - knowing that small businesses hold the power isn’t enough. You need to act on that knowledge. You need to do something with your tremendous advantage. In this article we’ll give you several very specific and concrete ways that you can act now; and get more customers that prefer your company - because it’s smaller.

Your advantage from being small comes in three main parts.

1. Personal service

When you are a small business, your customer will know you.

Your customers will probably meet every single one of your employees (which, may end up being you). And they will get to know you, your company, your values, your style, etc… This is a huge benefit. People like to feel comfortable. They don’t like to talk to eight different people.

Notice how bigger companies tout the advantage of things like a “personal account manager” or a “dedicated support professional”. Well, just for the record, as a small company my customers get that by default. Your’s can too.

2. Knowledge of your customer

The better a company knows it’s customers, the better it can serve them, and the more it will profit because of it. If you know your customers well, you can predict their ever-changing needs and wants. From that prediction, you can adapt your business so it will be more successful.

As a small business owner, you probably do a little bit of everything.

This leads to you dealing directly with your customers. Direct customer contact builds a much better understanding than, say, working as a product manager at a big company. Big companies have so many levels for the information to go through that by the time the employees tell the managers what the customers want, the meaning is likely lost or garbled.

3. The ability to change quickly

For a big corporation to do change what it’s doing takes a lot of effort.The new idea first has to make it’s way through management teams, and if it’s lucky it’ll make it to the board. With board and shareholder approval, the company will probably direct millions of dollars into feasibility studies and R&D. Then it might change.

For you, as a small business owner, it’s a lot easier.

If you see that your consumers are missing a service then you can start offering it. It takes one decision, and there is very little risk. The difference between a big corporation and small one is like the difference between a MAC Truck and a sports car. You can move, turn, change, accelerate, slow down, and adjust - much faster.

Here’s how can you turn this to your advantage immediately: call up several of your customers and tell them that in the interest of improving your business you’d like to ask them some questions. Ask them what your doing well, what your doing poorly, and what services they might want you to offer that you don’t. Then, and this is what a big business can’t do, implement their suggestions right away.

Take these three points to heart, and use them whenever you can.

Keep your customers very close, give them personal service. Build an understanding of what they want, what they like and dislike. Then use your small business agility to make changes much faster than the big guys can. If you do all three, I can promise you’ll see great results.

Reader Comments

Paul Seden
Jul. 9. 2007 1:33 PM

I run a small leadership consulting business, and I often time get this question:

“Why should I go with your small consulting firm, instead of a bigger one that has been around longer”

This article gave me several responses to that. I can adapt faster than bigger firms, I can give them a more personal and customized service, etc…

Great post, thanks!

Aug. 24. 2007 2:38 PM

We all try to say this stuff, then along comes people like you, who manage to express it succinctly and powerfully. Please stop immediately it makes the rest of us feel awfully inadequate. :]

Express Framing and Stained Glass
Sep. 23. 2007 3:10 PM

we are a new small business seeking info on how to grow and expand.  Any advice or pointers would be much appreciated. Thanks. Express Framing.

Silk Base Closure
Jul. 2. 2014 7:30 AM

Great post! your website is fantastic! I just can’t stop reading this. Its so fresh, so filled with updates that I just didn’t know.

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