The Importance of Being Independent
While your business should always look toward bigger and better things, consider the inherent advantages of being a smaller, independent business.
Yet we want to grow. We’d love to be the next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, the entrepreneurial success story that sweeps the nation and makes headlines. We want to be one of those entrepreneurs on Shark Tank, fighting to fund our business and bring it to new heights. Naturally, we want bigger and better things for ourselves, our workers and businesses.
And we should, shouldn't we?
But let's not forget the benefits of being a small business (emphasis on the word "small"). SMBs represent a community that sticks together, understands each other and generally work for each other in pursuit of economic prosperity. As America’s independent businesses represent the country's backbone, being part of that unit is something truly meaningful. While being a small business may indeed be our secret weapon, it’s hard to suppress the desire to eventually become something bigger (and presumably better).
For this reason, businesses should approach decisions concerning growth carefully and consider what matters most to them. Growing too fast or rapidly can result in disaster as business often spread themselves too thin. Likewise, the stars in our eyes often keep us from really getting down to business.
While we may often forget them, the benefits of being an independent business are truly great. Beyond the rewarding nature of owning something truly unique, small businesses have the edge over their big business counterparts in many areas. Consider the importance of being independent and how that independence can help drive your business.
To some, having less customers simply means less cash flow; however, having a smaller base also allows you to focus more on customer satisfaction.
Companies are always scrambling for ways to improve customer service and retain more of their business. Whether through paying special attention to who comes through your door or monitoring your customers through the social network, it’s less of a hassle to make sure your customers’ needs are being met when there’s a smaller sample to deal with. In addition, it becomes much easier to create a personal connection with buyers when you have enough time and attention to show them some love.
Many customers are pensive about big box companies as they don’t want to deal with a faceless corporation or entity that doesn't see them as people. If your business is small enough to have a face, why not show it off? Take advantage of your business’ mom and pop vibe and create an atmosphere “where everybody knows your name.”
And Now For Something Completely Different
The big boxes and chains we see clogging up every other strip mall represent the norm. The ordinary. What we've come to expect. Oftentimes, such companies don’t feel the need to change or evolve because, well, why should they? They’re the establishment and they’re running the show. Despite this, small businesses have an inherent advantage over their big box competitors in the sense that they can offer something different.
People don’t roll into a new town to check out the Wal-Mart or Applebee's. They want to see the quirky clothing shop that they've heard so much about. They want to go to the hole-in-the-wall restaurant that’s supposedly to die for. In short, they want to see the independent businesses that offer unique products and flavor to their communities.
Your business can be the difference when it comes to what customers want. By offering something beyond the norm, you’ll draw a crowd that’s not only eager to come through the door but also evangelize you for stepping outside the box (pun intended). Big businesses simply cannot generate a grassroots, cult-like following the way an independent business can.
Of course, big box companies will almost always beat you down when comes to price. Consider, however, that if you can offer a truly unique product or experience, price becomes much less of an issue when you have...
Simply put, Independence appeals to buyers. People like the idea of going out and supporting local businesses versus "the big guys." So, what businesses are booming due to the rise of indies?
Craft Beer - The craft beer movement in this country is supported so widely that big breweries have taken to creating their own competing "craft beer" brands in an attempt to jump on the bandwagon. While Anheuser Busch represents nearly half of America’s breweries, craft beer has seen a huge jump in sales in recent years. Independent breweries are currently employing over 100,000 and represent over 6.5% of beer sales in the United States.
Video Games - The recent edition of Grand Theft Auto may have made over a billion dollars in three days, yet independent developers are currently taking a huge chunk out of the video game market. Whether through PC, traditional consoles or mobile games, indie developers are supported by rabid fans and micro-transactions in an industry that was formerly dominated by bigger developers. The result? A mobile gaming industry that is expected to be a $54 billion industry by 2015, much of which will be the result of independent developers.
Musicians - Artists have been going indie for decades; however, with record sales at an all time low , it's often better for artists to fend for themselves these days. The modern web offers immense opportunities to such musicians, resulting in more economic and artistic freedom. A surprising number of mainstream artists have seen great success from their independent releases, such as Macklemore's The Heist, which has sold over one million copies in the United States alone.
The Bottom Line
Some small businesses don’t want to be small businesses forever. Regardless, consider what independence does for you and your company. If you can offer something out of the ordinary, you can build an audience that respects your individuality and supports your cause. What's your favorite part about being an independent business?
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