By Corbett Barr
When you’re small, there is so much to celebrate.
When you’re small, you’re capable of handcrafted experiences, thoughtful details and careful outcomes.
When you’re small, you can personally know every customer. You can afford to do the little things that matter, like calling a customer or spending an hour to understand how you can help them better.
When you’re small, you can ensure every email, every video, every blog post and every status message is crafted with care.
When you’re small, you can make sure everyone is on the same page. And if they’re not, you can find out why just by asking.
When you’re small, you can change directions in a hurry, because you feel like it or because a new opportunity just has to be explored.
When you’re small, you can affect people deeply.
Once you’re big, everything changes.
Once you’re big, you can’t know all your customers (or even everyone you work with).
You lose the critical feedback loop between customers’ honest, human needs and the folks at the top with revenue goals and shareholder demands.
You can’t create the little details that matter so much, that create love and trust and delight in your audience.
There’s just not enough time. It’s all too big.
More importantly, once you’re big you can’t get small again.
Getting big is a one-way journey.
Staying small is a journey too. It’s just not an obvious one.
Staying small takes work. You have to choose to find better ways to do things instead of just throwing money or people at problems. You have to grow quality over quantity.
Small is great.
Big can be great too, but big gets too much attention. Big likes to make people doing small and meaningful work feel inadequate for no good reason. The latest IPO gets first page news headlines for months. Today’s venture capital raise is always a big deal.
Big is celebrated because it’s easy to explain. Biggest revenue, most powerful brand, most employees, fastest growth. There is always one of each category.
Big is fun to talk about (“Did you see AcmeCorp’s revenue this quarter? Wow.”), but big doesn’t mean better. And big doesn’t always matter.
It’s hard to separate big from greed. A few people get rich when something goes public. Investors and founders get rich. Employees and users aren’t better off.
Small is not so easy to explain. Without big numbers to compare, you have to pay attention to the details. You have to read past the headlines and rely on your experience.
Details matter when something is small. The details are why the people who matter love small things.
Small is great.
Big can rarely stay great, even if it started great when it was small.
We should celebrate small.
Celebrate small companies and ideas and projects.
Celebrate entrepreneurs who understand how hard it is to stay small and choose to do so anyway.
Celebrate the small and profitable in a world of big and wasteful.
Staying small is an art. Constraints guide greatness.
You don’t have to put down big to embrace small. Big is what it is. Something will always be the biggest, and sometimes big is done right. Some things are supposed to get big, to change the course of human history or bring good to every person.
Big isn’t really the enemy. The real enemies are the invisible assumptions surrounding big, the gravity of big, the sense that if what I’m making doesn’t get big then it’s not good, I’m not good. That’s not true.
Small doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Let’s change that.
Celebrate the small thing you’re building. Acknowledge it’s importance. Pat yourself on the back. Enjoy the moments with the details and the customers that big can never have.
Appreciate the small entrepreneurs and businesses and projects and organizations around you that make your life better because they care about the people and the craft more than the growth and market share.
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