Small may just be the new religion of our times

Small may just be the new religion of our times

Entrepreneurship | Judette Coward-Puglisi

February 25, 2009


Good news from summit organisers this week. My name, along with several others I suppose, was thrown into a hat for speakers that could talk about small businesses at the Fifth Summit of the Americas being hosted in Trinidad  in April.

 The talk is that while conversing with Caricom leaders about the composition of some of the business panels at the Summit, a concern was expressed that small business was not adequately represented. There was a subsequent rush  to find names who could adequately represent the sector (hence the hat)  and speak about the challenges  within the SMEs. 

Me? I rather talk about the opportunities. For a long time through this column, my blog and at various podiums, I have been saying that the time for small business has come. One just has to look at the shambles that lie at the feet on the opposite end of the pond.

After all, it was big  companies that led the way in the globe’s financial melt down; it was big CEOs who got even bigger cheques and compensation packages even as they rode on their equally large jets to beg for big bailout money. Big banks too had gotten greedy housed in their vast headquarters as if to keep up with their neighbours across the street (Wall Street) investing  millions of dollars in loans they hadn’t looked at and working with skilled accountants who worked big time to make the numbers look good.

AIG was big. Goldman too.  GM was unstoppable. And Merryl Lynch? Remember them?

It seems though that as people get more and more suspicious of big, attention is being shone on small.  As the new media darlings, these small  engines of growth  are offering business models that are making large businesses appear as if they are  65-year olds wining in the Carnival band wearing  high heels and a bikini. 

Here’s a fact. As big began going to government for bailout, as they began cutting  their employee base, as they began  chopping prices to what they should have been in the first place, as they began  being obsessed with interest rates, small business owners began their immediate reinvention.  Several began adapting  their business models while remaining true to their core values. In my own firm, we zoned in  on being the  outsourced PR firm of choice. We immediately beefed up our social media, permission-based marketing and used our software to generate free on-line media analytics for prospective clients caught in the economic free fall. We did so in the hopes of drumming up business, and we grew by over 170% in the last quarter.

Being small means being flexible. If you run a small, even medium sized organisation, you know exactly what I mean. Every night we get decide what business we will pursue and how we will morph to suit the times.  And  invariably the work reflects back to us whatever we expect of it. For me, that means optimism even in harsh time and the continuous dedication to excellence because being just merely good is simply not good enough. 

The American star of marketing, Seth Godin, sung the praises of small business in his most popular blog posting to date.

Small, he wrote, means that you can answer email from your customers or outsource the boring, low-impact stuff while you keep the power because you invent the remarkable and tell stories to people who want to hear them.

According to Godin: “A small law firm or accounting firm or ad agency is succeeding because they’re good, not because they’re big. So smart small companies are happy to hire them. A small restaurant has an owner who greets you by name. A small venture fund doesn’t have to fund big bad ideas in order to get capital doing work. They can make small investments in tiny companies with good (big) ideas. A small church has a minister with the time to visit you in the hospital when you’re sick."

Small is not an excuse. It’s now a raison d’être. In the past year, our world has fundamentally changed. We used to do business in a time  when there was plenty of big. No more. Now, a wired world can make small businesses operate in real time, develop ambitious visions and audacious goals as well as leverage the skills set of others so as if appear big. No big buildings required here. No atriums. Just the right-size and the big can -do attitude. 

Shucks, I am real anxious to tell them that at the Summit. Anxious to demonstrate how small might just be the new religion of our times.