Futuristic digital man, recovering PR guy, magic beansman, aspiring know-it-all. Chief Strategy Officer at Northern Army. More...

The myth of big

John Farquhar, President & Creative Director of Wild Mouse Advertising, has written an excellent post on his blog today about surviving in a new economy.  When big companies are laying off employees in big numbers, there’s a huge opportunity for the small guys who work smarter to keep growing – even when the going is tough.

That’s a huge change in thinking for many organizations who got where they are today by virtue of being big.  But, the reality is that being big today is a liability – and an unnecessary one at that.  The New York Times is competing against 4-person blogs for ad revenue. Microsoft is competing against 2-person startups and open-source communities for software revenue.  In many cases, big does not equal better.

From John’s post:

How big do you need to be to create the best product possible? It’s probably smaller than you think.

Ford Motor used to hire shepherds to tend Ford sheep on Ford land to create Ford cotton to weave into Ford seats on Ford Cars. That, of course, seems insane today.

Technology is changing the way we interact with business, but it’s also changing how business is done.  We don’t necessarily have to be in the same building / city / country to do business anymore.  Virtual collaboration and communications technologies that were prohibitively expensive five years ago are now boiled down to a monthly subscription that’s less than you pay for your local newspaper.

It’s a brave new world out there… and a lot of the companies who come through this economy are going to be the ones who were brave enough to resist being big, and who kept thinking small.

Also, if you haven’t checked out John’s blog yet – you should.  He’s got some extremely intelligent takes on what’s going on in the creative and marketing world today.

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  1. Michael S

    Does John know you don't get cotton from sheep? Or did I miss the point?

  2. Big is better is a hangover from the industrial revolution that taught us to productionise wherever possible and leverage economies of scale. There are still economies of scale to be had – it is just that the scale has changed.

    The web has enabled all those that want to plug into shared technologies – so the one person startup working from the spareroom has the same advantages as Blue Chip companies, without the heaving payroll. The scale has got far larger -we can all plug in for a tiny cost – which means we no longer need to "belong" to a conglomerate – we are all becoming part of the conglomerate which is the world economy shared accross the web.

    Of course this doesn't translate across all fields – Big Oil, Big Pharma and Big Manufacturing have to stay relatively big to afford the huge capital costs involved, but even they will get progressively smaller as they use the web to further outsource all non-core functions.

  3. Two great articles (this and John’s), very well said. It is difficult to ignore that big business isn’t always the answer now. It’s becoming much easier to manage a small business and still service a great amount of clients. God bless the internet for making the world a smaller place and giving the little fish a chance to compete with the big fish.