I run a small business, a micro-business of one, and have done so for over 25 years. But this is the year I've chosen to innovate that model and expand my scale and scope. So naturally I'm casting about looking for guidance. For me, that guidance comes in large part from others who have either done, or are doing, what I intend to do: launch, grow, and run a successful small business.
It always amazes me how when you set your sights on something and publicly place your order with the universe, good things happen. People and resources appear on your radar screen with uncanny timing. Perhaps it's just the reticular activating system in high gear (i.e., when you're looking for a new appliance, all of a sudden it seems like there are a million advertisements for exactly what you're looking for.) They were always there, of course; it's just that now you're paying attention.
That's exactly how a book by author Phil Simon landed on my desk. It's called The New Small: How a New Breed of Small Businesses is Harnessing the Power of Emerging Technologies. The timing was perfect. Better still, the book is terrific.
Within the broad spectrum of some 30 million small businesses in the United States, there is a special breed, a new breed, a different breed, of small. The new small are tech savvy, hyper-efficient and hyper-focused. They're exploiting emerging technologies in unique ways, ways that every small business owner/operator needs to be to leverage his or her business for growth and success.
"There's really only one fundamental thing unique about the New Small," writes Simon. "The owners and employees of these companies were simply willing to embrace a different way of doing things. They didn't rely upon what they learned while working in large companies or upon conventional wisdom. These people aren't inherently smarter, nor are they more tech-savvy."
This is Simon's third book, and includes a foreword by Chris Brogan. Simon's previous books were The Next Wave of Technologies and Why New Systems Fail.
The New Small share 11 key characteristics that combine to separate them from the larger class of all small businesses:
- Their founders and owners share similar backgrounds
- They have been formed relatively recently
- They are comfortable with change and new technologies
- They are willing to experiment
- They are unwilling to reinvent the wheel
- They convert technology to a variable cost
- They understand the importance of social CRM
- They are "long-term greedy"
- They want something else out of work
- They are very cautious about future growth
- They recognize the importance of user-friendly and content-laden websites
There are five emerging technologies that the New Small are using to slash costs, improve efficiency, and increase the availability of critical applications and information:
- Cloud computing
- Software as a Service (SaaS)
- Free and Open Source Software (FOSS)
- Social technology (networks and media)
Simon avoided the typical book-writing trap of focusing on widely reported success cases. Instead, he sought out potential companies to write about by using his website, LinkedIn groups, other social networking sites, and Help a Reporter Out. The filtering challenge was two-fold: find companies different from each other enough to be interesting, and find companies open enough to admit mistakes and missteps. For me, the net result of that filtering makes for an immensely practical and, thus, applicable narrative.
In the author's own words, "This is a book for those who wonder if there are better ways to use technology... a book for those who are thinking about joining the ranks of the entrepreneurs... thinking about starting a small business and are curious about how similar companies are taking advantage of emerging technologies. Finally, employees of big companies will benefit... to know what progressive smaller outfits are doing -- and how they are doing it."
What Others are Saying:
"We've known for a while that 'small is the new big,' to quote Seth Godin, but a piece has been missing -- specifically the piece that explains how technology has been accelerating the trend and how companies can harness technology to take advantage of it. In The New Small, Phil Simon does a masterful job of filling that void. I heartily recommend it."-- Bo Burlingham, editor-at-large Inc. Magazine and author of Small Giants: Companies That Choose To Be Great Instead of Big.
Matthew E. May is the author of The Shibumi Strategy: A Powerful Way to Create Meaningful Change. You can find him on Facebook here, and you can follow him on Twitter @matthewmay.