WebVisions 2007: The Bigness of Smallness

by Luke Wroblewski May 5, 2007

John Moore’s jumboSHRIMP Marketing talk at WebVisions 2007 walked through a number of ways big businesses could act small by staying connected to their passions, employees, communities, and more.

  • All big businesses began as a small business
  • Our biggest challenge is to get big but stay small –Howard Schultz, Starbucks
  • The smaller you are, the bigger you must look. The bigger you are, the smaller you must get.
  • Wall Street demands growth but at some point in time, big becomes bad, only a convenience, all about market share, or nearly ubiquitous.
  • Business Envy, Employees, Customers, Suppliers, Competition are all ways companies are pressured to grow. Competition forces small companies to match offerings. Suppliers want business to grow so they have more distribution. Customers want companies to grow so they can build long-term relationships. Employees want companies to grow for career growth opportunities.

Ways Big Businesses Can Act Small

  • Be the best not the biggest. A byproduct of being the best, is getting bigger. Example: Cabela’s will never go bigger then 40 locations. Concentrate on stores they have to make them better.
  • Love your business: should begin out of love not love of money. Example: Powell’s stocks used & new books next to each other. Not about money- about the love of books.
  • Have a strong point of view: means you have a focus. Allows you compete against bigger companies. Example: Voodoo doughnuts has the voodoo doll doughnut that gets people talking. Roll doughnuts in Fruit Loops, bacon, etc.
  • Passion Attracts Passion: passion into business can inspire those who work for the business. Example: Apple genius bar. Don’t hire “warm bodies”. Hire passionate people.
  • Treat employees as “family”. Example: every new hire at the Container Store gets 240 hours of training. Typical company training is seven hours. Container Store employees get paid 2-3 times more money and receive 40% discounts on purchases. First must astonish your employees before you can astonish your customers.
  • Root Yourself in Your Community: every company struggles to stay locally relevant. Example: Guitar Center puts on three music competitions per year. Starts out local, goes national.
  • Redefine Success. Example: CD Baby! Wants to introduce you to 175,000 independent artists. They will not stock the largest hits. Proud to say they gave 45 million dollars back to musicians. Redefined success by measuring their impact on customer’s lives.
  • Appeal to Main St. more than Wall St. Example: Steve & Barry’s combined Old Navy with collegiate shop. Not a public company.
  • Follow a Higher Purpose: be driven by something more important. Make a unique contribution to the world. Example: Whole Foods has 1.5% market share in Dallas but has incredibly high mindshare.
  • Stay connected. Growth happens. All previous points are tied to staying connected to your beliefs, your employees, your communities, etc.