Small is beautiful

I was on a flight the other day and got chatting to a lady sitting next to me who it turned out was a big fish working for a multinational. She was polite enough to show some interest in the businesses that are covered by PortugalWorks (CorkLink cork products, Carvalho Custom cycling & triathlon clothing and Portugal Wine Holidays – wine tasting in Portugal and other tourism based around wine and clothing sourcing from Portugal) and we ended up comparing notes, her saying how frustrating it was that anything that needed to get done required endless meetings and committees to approve it and me saying that although I could do pretty much anything I wanted without consulting anyone, it was frustrating sometimes not to have more in-house expertise or the money to buy in high level expertise when it was needed.

Her point was that in a small business, you have to make a virtue of the fact that you can be extremely dynamic and quick to react. The only thing to slow us small business owners down is self-doubt. It really struck me that to be good at running a small business, you cannot really afford to have too much self-doubt and you have to have the courage of your convictions. Because if you try and run a small business and you are not quick to react and ready to try new things without having too much data to support why you are doing it (just a gut instinct), then you are going to be slow like the big boys, but without their immense resources to compensate.

The approach that I try and use to evaluate my gut instincts about a new strategy is what I call an “as if” implementation. So, when I have thought up some new innovative scheme that I think could be worth pursuing I stop agonizing about whether it is a good idea or not and just start going ahead “as if” I am going to go through with it. So for example I will start ringing up suppliers for quotes, tell business partners that I am going to do it, maybe put something on a website and so on. This for me is the best way of getting feedback, because you turn an abstract idea into real actions and sometimes very rapidly it becomes painfully obvious what a truly bad idea it was and it can be quietly put out of its misery. Other times it is a game changing strategy and of course I can then carry on the implementation. The beauty of this way of doing things is that you don’t have to spend too much time staring into space umming and ahing about it, you can allow decisions to make themselves. And most important of all, it means you can have a wild idea on a Sunday night and have it either confirmed as brilliant or dismal by Wednesday afternoon.