Editorial: Small is Sexy

Trent Ernst, Editor


There’s an old saying, quite common, that goes like this: size doesn’t matter.

In fact, I’d like to posit that small can be downright sexy.

No, I’m not talking about my personal shortcomings, I’m talking about businesses, silly.

Recall if you will the ad campaign for BC Credit Unions from a few years back. The ads featured a dehumanizing image, implying this was how the big banks viewed its customers, as little more than a number. The selling point? We treat you like a real person here.

That has always and ever been one of small business’ greatest assets: personal service, personal connection. You want a photo shoot with Eye For Detail? It’s not some teenager who we hired, it’s the owner of the company who takes the picture. Looking to stay at Mila’s Bed and Breakfast? Yes, that really is Mila who is serving you breakfast.

Here’s the deal, though. Being small? Is only a benefit to your business if you act small. If you take your strengths and run with it.

What are the strengths of small businesses? Lets look at a few of them:

Small business is more personal

Over at the Dragon Palace, there are four combos, called, obviously enough, Combo A, B, C and D.

My sister, however, doesn’t like any of those four combos. She likes some things in all of them, but likes all of none of them. So when she goes in, she often orders a combo C, but substitutes a couple things.

One time while listening to her order, I suggested that instead of explaining what she wanted again, they should just call it a Combo J.

Next time I went in, I mentioned that I would like a Combo J. Tony knew exactly what I was talking about, and a few minutes later, my food appeared.

Catch that? It’s not “the waiter,” it’s “Tony.” That’s what I’m talking about.

Thing is, this can turn around and bite you in the butt, too. If you’re a small business and you don’t remember your customers, if you aren’t friendly and personable? Your not going to last long. Your customers are your greatest assets, and if your customers think you an ass, you’re not going to have customers for much longer.

Small business is more flexible

Or at least, it should be. Henry Ford, the first of the big automotive manufacturers invented the carbon copy car. His method of using an assembly line to build cars ushered in modern manufacturing. However, one of the issues with an assembly line is it is tough to change anything in the process. Ford famously said: “Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black.” If you are a small business owner, you should be flexible enough to move to where the market is.

Small businesses are innovative

Again, this is what they should be. A small business shouldn’t just be a third rate rip-off of a bigger, better known product.

Let’s take a look a the previous example of Ford. An innovative small business would (and did) step up and say “You want a colourful car? Well, we can paint that car any colour you want!” If you are going to respond to big business, respond not by imitating, but by innovating. Look at what they’re doing, then do exactly the opposite.

Small businesses are passionate

Finally, small business owners should be doing something they love. They shouldn’t do something just because there’s a hole in the market, but should be fulfilling their life’s goal in running their business. I run a photography business on the side not because there’s nobody else doing it (I wish), but because the language of light speaks clearly to me, and I love to communicate in images. If all you’re doing is trying to make a quick buck, stop. Your customers will feel your lack of passion and you’re going to struggle to make a go of it, and hate what you’re doing to boot.