When it comes to business, "Small is the New Big," writes Seth Godin

September 8th, 2006

Why small businesses rock
By Kerry Hannon, Special for USA TODAY

Being big isn't what it used to be for business.
Mega status once mattered in all kinds of ways. Sprawling buildings, giant law firms and big accounting firms were the vogue.

“And then small happened,” writes Seth Godin.

Godin is the author of “Small is the New Big: And the 183 Other Riffs, Rants, and Remarkable Business Ideas.”

The tipping point, when big began to be not-so-appealing, happened this way, according to Godin: “Enron (big) got audited by Andersen (big) and failed (big). The World Trade Center was a terrorist target. Network (big) TV advertising is collapsing so fast you can hear it. American Airlines (big) is getting creamed by JetBlue (small).”

So far, so good. But then Godin offers this bit of a twist: “Small is the new big only when the person running the small thinks big.”

Godin argues that small works best because a business can be nimble and flexible enough to change when it's demanded.

His overarching concept: “If you want to be big, act small.”

He discusses how having just one employee – himself – changed his life. Being small allows you to start stuff without betting the farm on every launch.

Furthermore, “You're way more likely to launch more, and more randomly, which vastly increases your odds.”

He advises:

*Quit buying into the bigger-is-better mentality.

*Don't grow unless it gives you joy. In his new book, Godin – business blogger and author of several books including “Purple Cow” -goes off in all kinds of directions, ranting about the contemporary marketplace.

His observations about:

*Hard work. It's not about pulling all-nighters, working weekends or being attached to your BlackBerry. Hard work is about inventing a “new system, service or process that's remarkable.” And consider this, writes Godin. “It's hard work to tell your boss that he's being intellectually and emotionally lazy.”

*Change. The ones most likely to resist change are competent people because, “Change threatens to make them less competent.”

Perhaps the most valuable part of the book is Godin's two lengthy essays on Web design and blogs. Especially for the green blogger, this is worth lingering over.

“The best blogs walk a very fine line between civility and anarchy, between passion and privacy,” he writes. “The best blogs start conversations, they don't control them.”

To Godin, if you want to grow, blogs matter. To ignore them is a grave mistake. Blogs are today's quintessential means of touching information-hungry, idea-sharing people.

At the workplace, the new, new thing is CEOs writing blogs, and that's something that should be approached carefully in this competitive environment, he writes. To draw in readers, high-profile bloggers should hit on at least four of these qualities: candor, urgency, timeliness, pithiness, controversy, utility.

“Small is the New Big” is meant to be read randomly.

As Godin warns from his very first page, “Don't read this book all at once. It took me eight years to write, and if you read it in one sitting, it'll give you a headache.”

Godin's collection is arranged alphabetically and was compiled mostly from his short, snappy blog (www.sethgodin.com), Fast Company column and e-books.

There's no linear thought involved here. His riffs jump wildly, from the strategy of coming up with a cool name for your business to thoughts on polka music playing on elevators.

He's all over the place, and it's fun, albeit a tad grating at times.

But if you're looking for a jump-start, this is a good place to begin.

Interested in booking Seth Godin to speak at your next event? Contact Greater Talent Network, America's Leading Celebrity Speakers Bureau.