How to make your business appear smaller

I was inspired by a recent article from the Australian Anthill about making our business appear bigger than we are. But in the age of authenticity, do we really want that? Sure, appearing big can be a good thing depending on our audience. Certainly, the key point in the article to me was ‘How to appear professional’. But why should professional be inextricably associated with big?  Maybe the strategy should be to appear as small as possible. The current market place is not short of large corporates who are starting to understand the importance of personal service again. An example that comes to mind is the Bank of Queensland moving to a franchised branch model – where local ownership is of strategic importance to customers. Especially in such a tarnished industry as banking.

So why would we want to appear smaller than we are? Here’s a couple of thought starters:

Service – it is implicit that service is better when dealing directly with a small group of people rather than a faceless corporation

Trust – Smaller companies are way more dependent on you as a customer. You matter more, so you can trust the fact that they will do all they can to keep you.

Underdog – People love to support the up and comer. The person having a real go. Being small should be embraced and leveraged. Often this might be the only reason people do business with you.

So in the spirit of small = good, here’s the startup blog top 10 list of how to act small. Regardless of our actual revenue:

  1. Have personal contact details of team members on your website. Email, Skype cell phone.
  2. Remove pointless gatekeepers from your office who insulate hierarchy members from real customers
  3. Use real language in all written forms of communication. Use a human voice not corporate PR brochure parlance.
  4. Be honest when you stuff up. Admit it openly and quickly. Don’t make decisions based on repercussions, but on what’s right.
  5. Write terms and conditions (if you must have them) in a language anyone could understand
  6. Never call your audience your target. Business is is not skeet shooting, it is about delighting. You are performing for an audience, who can get up and leave at any time…. or even throw rotten tomatoes.
  7. Give responsibility to individuals not committees. Give them decision authority. It’ll get done quicker and better.
  8. Don’t gag your people. Allow anyone to comment on the company and what’s happening. It’ll be the best research you can ever do to find out what’s really going on in your company. No ships will be sunk.
  9. Have a policy of common sense. Not written manuals no employee will ever read.
  10. Say, “Yes we are only a small company…. and here’s why we are better…”


7 Comments How to make your business appear smaller

  1. Tim Cinel

    Well I just realised that I’m trying to appear bigger than I am on my web design site, the shame! Thank you for the insightful article. I’d better get to work on making my site more personal…

  2. Tyrone

    Yes, we do all start in these small business steps and we shouldn’t be just contributing small as well. We should be showing these consumers that even if we are still in the starting stage, we can be able to cater them with relevant and useful information through the help of good service, enhanced trust and having the business plans all running in action. Being small but terrible has really been that effective in facing the big competitors!

  3. Ben Rowe

    Good post Stevie – very relevant for some debates I’ve been having this week.

    Appearring to be bigger than you are is just as bad as lieing. Whereas appearing to be smaller makes as more human.

  4. Pooja

    This is so true. From a customers point of view I am saying that personally if I want a product/service I will choose a smaller or local business over the bigger ones. It gives you more assurance and the fact that they’re dependent on you as well makes you feel that good service will be provided. Very good article indeed for startups and small business. I also write small business blogs for my company (a ‘small’ website design company) and this post will be tremendously useful.

  5. Jeffrey


    Nice take! And I agree completely. The bigger companies get the more removed they tend to get from the customer. Appearing smaller – or at least showing some individuals to the world brings us one step closer the to the customer, which always leads to good things.

  6. Judith

    Great post Steve! And besides all the very positive aspects of being “small”, pretending to be someone/something you are not will eventually lead to a big loss of credibility – probably the worst thing that can happen to any kind of entrepreneur.

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