Business Knowledge

Launching in Lockdown: The Power of being Small

Posted on Wednesday 29 July 2020

ICG member Theo Francis, Founder & Director at GuineaPig Fieldwork and Co-founder & Director at Colour Of Research (CORe) writes about how being a micro-business has many merits.

Being a small business can be a struggle in many ways. Managing to make things work with only a few hands on deck inevitably leads to a lot of pressure, requires a vast amount of multi-tasking and working from dawn until… well… whenever the day’s work is done.

That being said, there are many great benefits and real competitive advantages being a small business in terms of how we run our businesses compared to our larger more established counterparts. 

In this article, I’m going to share with you a few of the advantages that I’ve noticed in my first 2 months of launching my own agency GuineaPig Fieldwork

1. Flexibility

When a client recently approached me to ask if we could provide a moderation only service, I was able to say Yes. When a client came to me looking for help with panel recruitment, I was able to say Yes. Neither of these are services listed on our website and in a larger agency I’d have most probably have had to say no to these opportunities.

I don’t believe that as a start up you should say Yes to everything. On the contrary, I make it very clear when speaking with new clients that we are not your usual “Yes Men”. When a brief comes in, we check feasibility extensively and if for whatever reason it cannot be done, we won’t just wing it and hope for the best because I’ve seen first hand how often that can lead to disaster. 

However, I don’t particularly like saying no either and where larger agencies tend to have ways of doing things that are set in stone, even if something is technically doable, it’s often the case that because it’s never been done before, its not company policy and therefore, their hands are pretty much tied.

As a small, nimble start up however, there is no red tape, no head office to consult, no forms to fill in and wait for a response. The only question I needed to answer was “could it be done or not?”– the answer was yes. So hey, why not?! 

Big companies have the advantage in terms of reputation and getting favourable terms, but being small, you can outshine them every time when it comes to thinking on your feet and responding to new opportunities while they’re busy calling board meetings. 

2. Competitiveness 

I’m not a fan of undercutting the competition just to win a project, even if we don’t have the same overheads that they do. Not only will we make less money, but it is also likely that our services will be associated with being ‘cheap’ and of lower quality, which isn’t the reputation we are trying to build.

With that being said, being small and having little to no overheads does inevitably mean we have more margin to work with and can, if necessary, offer better terms than our competitors. 

Recently a client who had already booked a project with us at full price, came back to ask if we could help with another project, only this time their budget was very little as their end client was a small charity. Taking the project on meant making less than half of what we would normally have made but as a good will gesture and because, well… we could afford to do so, we were able to accommodate them while every other agency they had spoken to had turned them away. 

3. Personal Service

As a big business with hundreds of clients and a switchboard as long as the yellow pages, it can be difficult to build truly personal relationships with the people you are working for. As a small start up, we are able to connect with clients in a far more meaningful way than an impersonal corporate machine ever can.

With fewer clients, we are able to truly dive deep into who they are, what they are looking for from a partner and can align our services to their unique tastes and ways of working. This is an enormous advantage over a big business with a “one size fits all” approach to client development. 

People innately like to do business with other people and crave that human connection. Being small means you can forge lasting relationships that create genuine loyalty and keep people coming back.

4. The chance to shine!

As the captain of my own ship, having no “higher ups” to answer to and ask for permission every time I have a new idea has been liberating in so many ways! 

People are complex and entrepreneurial or not, usually have a number of versatile interests and skills that may or may not be directly related to the role they are working in. Personally, my utility belt rivals the great Inspector Gadget and I don’t mean to toot my own horn, I’m just genuinely good at a number of different things – we all are, aren’t we?

In big businesses, we tend to be pigeonholed into the role that we were employed for and when trying to add value to areas of the business that are not within that precise remit, we’re often told to “leave it to the [insert department] team” and kindly get on with our jobs. 

For me, starting up on my own means finally having the freedom to capitalise on all of my diverse abilities and ideas without the vast layers of bureaucracy and management holding me back, but even if you’re not the owner, working as an employee of a small business means having the ability to truly shine! 

In a big business, a lot of the time, you’re a small cog and a large machine. It can be extremely difficult to be seen and heard in an environment like that.

In a small company you’re far more able to involve yourself in different areas of the business and far more likely to have that extra effort appreciated rather than frowned upon. 

I hope this article inspires some of you small business entrepreneurs, who may be feeling like David facing up against Goliath with nothing but a slingshot, to realise the distinct advantages you have as a small business. 

How do you take advantage of the unique benefits of being a small business? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments below!

If you want to know more about GuineaPig, or have a fieldwork brief you’d like me to take a look at, just get in touch via team@guineapig.me.uk

Stay safe and stay motivated!

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