After studying what works and what doesn't in small business over the last 40 years, there is one overarching fact that I first noted as I was studying Tom Watson and how he created the monolith that is IBM.
It's not that a new business should be envisioned before it is ever created, although that is ever so true in the case of a new company. Watson certainly spent a great deal of time trying to understand the role that IBM would play in the world of business and how that looked.
It's not that a new company should have a clear understanding and vision of what their workforce looks like before it is created, although that is true as well. Tom Watson's ideas on what the "IBM Man" would look like is still in use today - the dark suit, the white shirt. It has become the de facto uniform standard we see in business today, too.
It's simply this: There is no difference between a successful big business and a successful small business. Tom Watson understood this and held it to be true. He knew that if he could create the plan for IBM and put it into action as a fully realized company, then the overall size of the entity would never matter, because the systems never needed to be changed, no matter how big "Big Blue" got.
I know what you're about to say, "Hold up, Gerber, my company doesn't look anything like those huge corporations!"
...And you should know what I'm about to say, "Then you aren't at the helm of a successful small business!"
Think about it - every single component I've discussed from my first E-Myth book all the way down to my newest, Beyond the E-Myth - have, at their heart, been about creating the systems to increase the success of small businesses.
That success is predicated on designing and implementing the one thing that most small business owners forget to ever put in place as they open their company up for business - the systems to support it.
In all this, you may find it fashionable to present yourself as the underdog or the new kid on the block who is looking to make a name for themselves and their company.
Go ahead! Differentiate away! Make the customer experience so radically different that it helps your client acquisition, it helps to drive your lead generation, it makes client fulfillment easy and fast.
... but while you do that, have the end goal of a replicable system in mind, so that any employee in your business can do it without you.
Today, it's too easy to get caught up in the "trendiness" of online sales, of electronic gadgetry to create sales, and a sort of edginess on the part of the company to differentiate themselves from others.
In and of itself, that is all fine and well and good, but ask yourself this - not "is it sustainable", but is it really a selling point? When your market ceases to be local or regional and your growth demands you play on the world stage, can you scale the model? In short, is your "edgy" pitch something that you, as the CEO of a Great, Growing Company can actually pull off? In short, is your business a big company that happens to be small right now or is it a small company that can never hope to be big? Trendy gadgets and edgy pitches inevitably get replaced due to the fickle nature of the buying public, but a business designed from the start to play big has the ability to weather trends and redirect itself to venues and products that its customers want and need.
You may need to play small, but plan big.