How Small Are You Going To Be?

We all believe that bigger is better. We’re driven into debt lusting after bigger houses, bigger cars, and big screen TVs. Weíre told bigger dreams are more rewarding. Companies want bigger profits; managers want bigger salaries. Think big. Act big. Look big.Big thinking, while an ideal starting point for setting goals, also gets us into more trouble than we bargain for. It is not that there is anything inherently wrong with thinking big or wanting to be big, it’s just that operating a small business requires a new set of tools; a mindset of thinking small.Many small business owners get caught in a trap that they are starting small as the first step to becoming big. This may be the dream in some instances. Most big corporations started small, launched in a basement or garage and ended up being big. If that is the goal, then big dreams and big thoughts are essential. But for many, that is not whatís behind the desire to own a small business.In the course of any week, I receive dozens of calls from small business owners (and some big ones!) eager to discuss some aspect of their business. While each owner has their own unique business challenges, there is a common theme that weaves its way through most conversations. Many small business owners are struggling with the reality of their smallness, whether it is a small customer base, limited funds, staff shortages or hours in a day. The enthusiastic launch of their small business, with its dream of financial independence, a gentler lifestyle and relaxing by the pool, have given way to big demands. And the inability to satisfy those demands leave many stressed and frustrated. This wasnít the intended course of action, was it?Recently a business consultant approached me with the intention of helping me get big. His technique was to have me think as big as possible regarding the potential of this publication: Picture it as a national magazine with thousands of readers and advertisers. Feel what it would be like to be at the helm of such a big, successful enterprise, feel the corner office, the fancy car, the fame and recognition. Now come back to the present. I’d like to help you set a course for that goal.But like so many business consultants, he was struggling with the reality of his own small business. More importantly, he never asked me if I wanted to be big. I declined his seduction. (Parenthetically, never hire a business consultant who has never owned and operated a successful small business. They can spin the theory but lack the substance of experience.)Operating a small business is not about thinking corporately (big) with smaller goals. That’s like downsizing your home but wanting to keep all the furniture. Small business success depends on instilling a whole new paradigm of thought. It requires a totally different approach.Paramount is knowing exactly how big (actually, how small) you want to be. All too often the vision of a gentler lifestyle of downsizing to a more palatable pace of life is overshadowed by our conditioned mind set that says, think bigger. This sets actions in motion that have big consequences. Bigger always requires more time, energy and input. Bigger often comes at the expense of taking care of the smaller things, like customer service, balancing the books and quality time with friends and family.While financial shortfall is often cited as the cause of the high failure rate of small businesses, what befalls many great small business ventures is the lure to become big. After all, isn’t the goal of many small business owners to land the big account so that the pressures of being small can be eased? It is our cultural prerogative to strive for greatness and to measure a man or woman by their achievements. And the bigger the achievement the better.Unfortunately for our culture, business success is often rated according to size …as if that really mattered.

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