One of my favorite movies of all time features a trampoline, a creepy antique carnival soothsayer and one of the most romantic songs ever recorded. The movie’s protagonist, Josh Baskin, trapped within his pre-pubescent prison, yearns to be Big.
Isn’t that a common yearning for us all when we launch our businesses and organizations? Don’t we all wish that we had unlimited budgets, plush offices in some groovy building and an ability to dominate the market?
If only we didn’t have to decide whether to pay ourselves a salary or stock up on paper clips. If only we could order a whole quarter’s worth of toner instead of extricating the cartridge from the copier and banging it upside the machine, trying to coax one last ream from it before it expires completely?
Firmly within the throes of Grass Is Greener Syndrome, we wistfully long for the day when we can escape necessity-led scrimping and daily MacGyvering.
Of course, if we spend too much time envying and projecting the assumed Wonderfulness of Being Big, we’re in danger of not appreciating the Power of Being Puny.
- Fewer layers of bureaucracy
- Faster iterations
- Greater sense of immediacy and feedback from those we serve
- Flexing and developing skills we never knew we had
- The rush of success
- The thrill of creating something from scratch
I really love movies, and so I’ll cite a couple of other epic examples of Nimble versus Behemoth (or David versus Goliath, depending on your point of reference). The first has to do with an X-Wing, a plucky fighter pilot with some serious Force Mojo and a big honkin’ moon-sized space station of destruction.
Or the Battle of Helms Deep, when the whole she-bang falls because of a grate, an over confident king and a well-placed mutant Orc bearing explosives.
Using a business example, according to Saul Kaplan, author and Chief Catalyst at the Business Innovation Factory, Blockbuster got “Netflixed“ by a small start up that saw a niche that wasn’t being filled and built something from nothing to topple a giant in the market place.
Time and again, the power of being small lies with being strategic, focused and responsive in a way a lumbering giant of an organization cannot. It’s true that you can’t turn the Queen Mary around on a dime (that is one big ship!). Same with organizations.
There are certainly benefits to being Big, don’t get me wrong. However, remember that great oaks don’t arrive on this planet 35 feet tall and in full leaf. They grow from acorns. Embrace the power of being small even as you aspire to becoming big.
- Nurture where you are
- Grow your network of “roots”
- Stay flexible
- Reach for the sky
How about you? What are your biggest (no pun intended) challenges of being a smaller business? How do you overcome them? What successes can you share with us?
Molly Cantrell-Kraig is a woman with drive. Possessing an innate sense of purpose and a pragmatic, solution-based approach to empowering people, she fused these two traits in order to establish Women With Drive Foundation. Based upon its founder’s personal history, Women With Drive Foundation is a means through which Cantrell-Kraig may effect change on both a micro and macro level. By providing women with something as essential as personal transportation in order to transition them from poverty to prosperity, she, through Women With Drive Foundation, seeks to empower women to help them help themselves. Through this action, the individual applicant benefits, as does society as a whole. Follow Molly on twitter as @mckra1g or @WWDr1ve (Women With Drive Foundation).
By Shonali Burke
Like many bloggers in the PR and marketing realm, I’ve been in awe of Liz Strauss ever since I became aware of the “name bloggers” in my professional world. When I started my own blogging journey, four years ago, Successful Blog was one of the first to become a regular stop; always for inspiration, and sometimes as I asked myself the question, “Will I ever be able to
I met Liz fleetingly a few years ago, when she spoke at a DC-area event. Our meeting was brief. She was standing outside the event venue and, spying her in a rare moment of solitude, I couldn’t help but go up to her and tell her how much I admired her. She didn’t know me from Eve (probably still doesn’t), but that didn’t stop her from graciously thanking me. Later, she was kind enough to connect with me on various social platforms, even though the benefit was certainly skewed towards me.
As Liz recuperates from her illness, I couldn’t help but think of five lessons small businesses could learn from Liz Strauss.
1. You’re only a stranger once.
This is the tagline of Successful Blog, but is applicable to your business if you approach your customers as people first. Sure, customers come and go. But a successful business will convert first-timers into repeat buyers, and repeat buyers into evangelists. I don’t care how large or small your business is, this is possible and applicable…if you treat them as people first.
How do you start doing this? By using today’s myriad two- and multi-way communication channels to build relationships instead of email lists.
2. Building relationships takes time.
Especially with the number of (how many? I don’t know! Too many to count!) social media/self-help/gurus shilling their wares, I am not surprised at how many small businesses that think the way to use social media is this:
After all, once you have a presence, the rest will fall into place, right?
Connecting – i.e. following/being followed back – on a social network does not automatically translate into a relationship. All that that first connection means is that a door has been (slightly) opened to you; how you now conduct yourself will determine whether that door opens more fully or slams shut in your face.
How do you start doing this? Be a human super-collider. Find out what makes the people you meet, whether they are customers, or prospects, or business professionals you come across at networking events, tick.
3. When you build relationships, your community steps up when you most need it to.
Look at the way this blog has been running for the past several months. Liz’ health situation was announced at the beginning of 2013. The last post I read, as I drafted my own, was dated May 10, 2013. That’s a full five months later.
Had Liz not spent several years genuinely building her community via real relationships, do you think she would have had people like Rosemary O’Neill step up to manage the blog in her absence?
No way, Don Juan.
How do you start doing this? Part of the answer is in #2 above, so first I will say, “Read above, lather, rinse, and repeat.”
4. Educate and empower your community.
The second part of the answer is to educate and empower your community. Tell them, as you engage with them over time, what’s important to you… and why (and if your business is community-centric, chances are it’s what’s important to them too).
How do you start doing this? As you continue to engage with them, find people who can become your de facto or de jure community managers, and empower them with enough know-how – such as your engagement goals and guidelines, and your content needs – so that they can step into the breach if and when they need to.
The great thing about this approach is that you may never need them to fill a void in your absence… but if you do, they are ready and willing to do so.
5. Focus on what works.
A recent Constant Contact survey reported that 66% of small business owners use mobile technology. Continue reading, though, and you’ll see: “… it’s important to note that, of the 34 percent not using any mobile device or solution for their business, a resounding 65 percent have no plans to do so in the future, mainly citing a lack of customer demand.”
I don’t think this 65% of the 34% is necessarily behind the times. Being a small business owner myself, I know the conflicting demands placed on small businesses.
What will you pay attention to? When? How? Who’s going to do it?
It isn’t a question of never paying attention to technological advances, it’s a question of being attuned to the technologies your customers are using or expect, and providing the appropriate platforms, while planning for the future. Just as Liz does here on Successful Blog, by maintaining a framework visitors are familiar with, but by keeping an eye on what’s to come.
How do you start doing this? Stay on top of technological and industry developments. But don’t jump on the bandwagon until your business can sustain and recoup the additional investment… and don’t let anyone pressure you into doing so either.
I’m sure there are many other lessons you have gleaned, on a business level, from Liz’ incredible contribution to the blogosphere and our time. Would you share what you have learned, so that we can salute her collectively?
Thanks for the shout-out, Shonali! I was honored to be able to give back a tiny bit to Liz, who has shown her generosity and kindness to so many over the years. She is the nougaty goodness at the center of this amazing community.
Look before you leap, says conventional wisdom. But if you have an iota of entrepreneurial essence to your soul, part of you inherently rejects this wisdom. Entrepreneurs, by and large, operate outside conventions. These are they who see what doesn’t exist, march to different drummers, chart their own courses.
But as we’ve also established through previous posts, there’s a difference between risk and folly. An entrepreneur takes calculated risks and is also comfortable with flux and the unknown. That said, part of any risky action is performing due diligence, whether that is researching your chosen industry; reaching out to others in related fields or drafting a business plan.
In so doing, you begin to form a network (some call it your tribe). These are the folks you turn to as mentors, guides and other resources as you move forward toward independence and fulfilling your dream – launching from the cliff, as it were.
Your network is your wings.
Your wings actually form themselves – triggered by your action.
Once you step out in faith, your network activates in an effort to help you. If you’ve cultivated your network properly, the anchors within will enable you to move upward more easily. These people have probably achieved a level of success that enables them to operate from a position of stability and strength. They *want* you to succeed as well.
Abundance begets abundance. A strong network comprised of secure people will want you to achieve (or even exceed) their levels of achievement because they are not threatened by your success. Rather, they understand that abundance magnifies itself. The Whole is elevated by your success, rather than diminished by it.
Your responsibility is to determine what you can offer, focus on it, develop it and implement your idea through consistent action. Leap.
Molly Cantrell-Kraig is a woman with drive. Possessing an innate sense of purpose and a pragmatic, solution-based approach to empowering people, she fused these two traits in order to establish the Women With Drive Foundation. Based upon its founder’s personal history, Women With Drive Foundation is a means through which Cantrell-Kraig may effect change on both a micro and macro level. By providing women with something as essential as personal transportation in order to transition them from poverty to prosperity, she, through the Women With Drive Foundation, seeks to empower women to help them help themselves. Through this action, the individual applicant benefits, as does society as a whole. Follow Molly on twitter as @mckra1g or a href=”http://twitter.com/WWDr1ve”>@WWDr1ve (Women With Drive)