As a solo, I sometimes look with envy to people who work in bigger companies. They have all kinds of resources, so their web site is up-to-date and professionally designed, they have cool business cards with a snazzy logo. If they are a coaching company, they do their events in upscale locations, or offer theme cruises or trips to foreign lands, or hold free events which attract hundreds and hundreds of people.
When I started out with my first business sixteen years ago, I fell right into this trap. It was a technology consulting practice, so to succeed I needed to project an image of success right from the start. I borrowed too much money (which the bank gladly handed to me by the way since my credit at the time was spotless) so I could rent an “A”-class office in the technology park and fill it with custom-made furniture. That adventure ended badly, and all that’s left is the office chair I’m sitting in right now and the brass name plate somewhere in my storage boxes.
Do I really want the baggage of a huge overhead, the stress of always selling to make sure I cover my bills at the end of the month?
Keeping it simple means figuring out what you do best, what is the unique gift that you bring, then discarding all the rest. The French word comes to mind: “épurer”, meaning going to the essence, making something pure. It’s like what makes the “iPod shuffle” series of music players so successful. No screen, minimal buttons, it just plays music.
Bigger is not better, especially in today’s economy. Small is the new Big. It is also the main advantage of being a solo: nimble, quick, low-overhead. We can test out ideas cheaply and quickly, then build on what works.
It takes courage to show who you really are, unadorned by the make-up of fancy business cards or a flashy website or cool offices in the best part of town. It is also our greatest advantage, because business that is based on a relationship of personal trust is much more resilient than one based on discounting and flash.
Stop trying to compete with the Big Dogs. You can’t win on their turf. Instead, do it your own way, and you will attract people who value you as a person, not you as the showman.
Keep it simple. Focus on your strengths. Amplify what makes you special. Small is the new Big.
For more information
This post was inspired by a passage in Jason Fried’s book “Rework”
http://37signals.com/rework/ (see the end of the free PDF sample)
“Small Is The New Big” by Seth Godin
Image Credit: Roberto Zingales (CyboRoZ) via Flickr
Direct link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/filicudi/3966095552
Used under Creative Commons 2.0 licence
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