Tale of Tails: Why Small Business Works
I was getting ready for work one morning and peered into my dog’s cage – as I always do – and something caught my attention. Something that I’ve seen a hundred times and never paid any mind. There they lay, sleeping soundly: one on a large bed, the other on a mish-mash of blankets and propping his head up with a small, hamburger pillow mashed between his gigantic paws. My two dogs, cozily asleep, held the key to why small business works!
Hear me out. Just because I get up at 4:00AM doesn’t mean this was a sleep-riddled thought of a brain struggling to work. I have two dogs. One is a medium sized yellow lab mix who occasionally responds to the name of Bran (that’s pronounced like Brawn). He’s about 45 pounds. The other is a small Rat Terrier and Chihuahua mix named Sceolan (pronounced Shkeeolan). He steps to the plate at a whopping 15 pounds. As you can probably guess, Sceolan gets the big bed; Bran gets the scraps. When Sceolan growls, Bran moves. When they wrestle, Sceolan wins. The only time Bran comes out on top is when I accidentally drop some food on the ground and he evolves into the Hungry, Hungry Hippo and swallows everything in his path. Some things just aren’t worth fighting for.
The point remains though. Sceolan embodies why a small business stand up to big business (or an entrenched competitor). Even in a difficult environment, the little guy can win. It just takes some grit and determination.
Small Business is Quick
Sceolan is agile and competitive. He can’t outrun Bran’s longer strides, but he can change direction quickly and cause Bran to stumble. When they play outside, he’s always darting back and forth, never allowing Bran to get to full speed when being chased.
The same principle is a key component of small business. Small business can’t compete on the size and scale of a large corporation and it’s silly to try. What they can do is get in the trenches and identify oncoming trends and react to them in a profitable manner. Let me give you a for instance. Pokemon Go was a huge phenomenon for just a couple months, yet many small businesses were able to cash in. There is a local brewery near me that created a small little corner for Pokemon Trainers to chat with one another and the also kept a steady stream of lures (in-game items that spawn more Pokemon to catch) going. This kept foot traffic coming in all night and became known as the happening PokeSpot. Big business can’t adjust like that.
Small business owners are on the ground floor with their customer base. Get out there and talk to them! By engaging them on social media or promotions, you can open them up through a conversation and find out what they want to see happen with your company. If you see a recurring theme, you have yourself a new line of business to tap.
Small Business is Crafty
Both Bran and Sceolan love sticks. They chase sticks, chew sticks, and add happiness to their day when they interact with sticks. Whenever Bran has a better stick than Sceolan, he steals it. He doesn’t walk up to Bran head-on and take it; that’s a good way to be on the wrong end of a yellow puppy paw. Rather, he nips at Bran’s heels until he stands up and then Sceolan dashes between his feet and takes the stick – quite literally – from under his nose where he can’t get bit.
This is one of those tips where it pays to have a large competitor. I’m a Realtor and small business owner, so I’m a one-man show. I can’t out advertise a real estate
website like Zillow, nor can I spend the millions of dollars on R&D campaigns to sniff out proper ways to do target marketing. What I can do though is copy them. Zillow has done massive A/B testing on headlines, word variations, graphics used in posts, and just about every other possible scenario under the sun. That means just by following Zillow and studying their ads, I too can benefit from their R&D department. Don’t just copy and paste a competitor’s ad – that’s unethical. But study it for patterns. Does your competitor consistently use the same type of ad with relative success? There is probably a reason for that, and it’s probably a reason that you can incorporate into your own marketing!
Small Business is Unique
Ok, so I don’t really have a great dog analogy for this one, something about a dog’s nose print. That said, it’s still very important to note in this article. Large companies have to appeal to a much wider audience in order to be profitable. They don’t take sides politically, they use politically correct terms, and they’re overall risk-averse when it comes to marketing. Conversely, small business can isolate their target demographic a little more neatly.
Here’s the real interesting thing about running your own business. You can actually afford to take more risks and it’s partly because you have a defined customer, and because you’re flexible and agile. A large business has a lot to lose if something goes awry. They have millions of dollars of useless product, wasted advertising, so on and so forth. Consequently, it takes a long time for a big business to “come to market” with a new idea. Remember, small business is quick!
Small business can adapt to unforeseen difficulties in a risky endeavor. Their flexibility is their lifeblood. What makes small business even more adjustable is that they just need to fill a niche in their own local market to be successful. Every market is different and completely based upon social and income demographics, as well as the type of industry you pursue. Once you find the niche, you find success. The abundance of needs to be filled, the ability for small business owners to be exceedingly risky, and, quite honestly a small business owners own desires and ambitions for how much they want to work is what makes small business unique.
Big business has a lot of advantages. The most obvious of those being the ability to offer lower prices due to economies of scale; the second most obvious is the brand recognition that comes with being a large firm. But big doesn’t always mean better. Like I’ve learned from my own pooches, sometimes the little guy can be a much more dominant force – so long as they play on the little guy’s turf. So too can small business.
If you’re a business owner just consider: what is it you actually do better compared against your opponent? Is it your ability to take risks? Do you segment the market efficiently? Or are you a real go-getter, always on the hunt for the next market trend? Whatever your strengths, remember to play them. When facing the Big Bran of Business, remember to keep your Sceolan instincts.