The Art of Small Business

I recently finished reading Small Giants – Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big by Bo Burlingham. If you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it. Mr. Burlingham an editor at large with Inc. magazine, gives us a look at 14 small businesses of various sizes that choose to follow a path of quality and ideals rather than all out growth. Each of the businesses has a different story, a different approach a different set of goals and ideals. There are no formulas to be found in the book, but that in itself is inspiring. As business owners, we can be who we are and be successful by our own definition. Business success can mean more than just financial success.

And what was the epiphany for me from reading this book was in the Chapter titled The Art of Business. Burlingham quotes his former boss Bernard Goldhirsh, the founder of Inc. “You’re not just writing for a rational person. You are writing for someone who has the soul of an artist and his expression is business”. Of course! That is the difference between a small business owner and a large corporation CEO.  Both are out to create value, but for the small business owner value is more broadly defined. For a small business owner, the business is a reflection of who they are as a person and it reflects their need to express their own values. Running a small business is a balancing act between art and science. Wonderful! It explains why I love small business so (and why small business owners can sometimes be difficult to work with). Each small business a unique and wonderful work of art painted on the canvas of business.

Like a good painter, you don’t always want to capture every detail when you look at a business. In fact, it is very helpful in both painting and business management to distill the mass of available information to the minimum necessary to capture the essence of the subject. So start with a clean canvas.  Ask yourself  “What is my definition of success? What do I want out of my business? What do I want to create?