For years bigger was better. The big hair of the 80s, the big houses, the big cars and the big expense accounts. Being part of something big, made you, well better. When I left University it was about how to get the best job, in the biggest agency with the biggest pay packet.
Thirty years later, for me, it’s about stripping back. Finding out what you are good at and focusing on it. It’s not about being the biggest, but just about trying to be the best. Why bother taking the time and energy offering services that you are only mediocre at when you could be focusing on the things you are really good at?
There is no doubt that there is a rise in people wanting to do things that they feel they are good at, doing it their own way. The Federation of Small Businesses recorded 5.4 million private sector organisations at the start of 2015, an increase of 146,000 since 2014 and a1.9 m increase from 2000.
However, not being big does sometimes mean it is hard to find your own voice, and be heard in the cacophony around you. Trade publications mainly focus on the big boys, national papers on those companies that have a national presence and money still talks, so bidding for Google Adwords against the big boys often means you will be outshouted and outbid.
So how does a SME make an impact? If big isn’t better, how can we show the world that small can be powerful, as Adam Lent in the book of the same title makes the case for?
It’s about doing things differently. It’s about maintaining the things you do well and improving on them. It’s about competing with yourself and not others. It’s about finding your niche, your bit of gold dust.
I recently ran a key message development workshop with a senior management team for a client. They were tasked with creating an elevator pitch and then pulling out key messages. What was interesting was that in the initial stab, not one key message was specific to their organisation. If you took away the name of the organisation you could easily replace it with any of their competitors.
Thinking about what makes you different. What makes your company different isn’t always easy. Even if you do know what makes you unique, communicating it to your potential audience can be hard. As can not talking in clichés, not speaking corporately, and not talking industry jargon.
Yet the process is simple, and the gold dust is normally there within all of us to find.
It’s about listening to those around you - your customers, your team, your market and your competitors. Hearing what they say and finding your space.
It’s about getting your tone of voice, your syntax, your language right.
It’s about analysing your audiences, identifying the priority audiences and speaking to them directly.
So we believe that size doesn’t matter. Often the only difference between being big and being small is that bigger organisations have more resources to throw at things. Being smaller means you sometimes need to rely on others to help you do the things that you have decided you don’t want to do, or to do the things that others do better than you. And realising that can sometimes be the most powerful thing of all.