Starting small (and perhaps staying that way)

I like small businesses. And that’s definitely not because I own one myself.

Small keeps you lean and nimble. Allowing you to operate a business the way you want and actually be creative about it. Now that’s some leverage, no? I’ve seen many creative professionals struggle with the direction they were headed towards when they worked for someone else.

As a matter of fact, “freedom” is the number 1 reason why professionals choose to work for themselves. It’s so much less stress and so much simpler.

I see startups popping all over the place. Are they scalable? God knows! And heck, who cares? The VCs surely don’t… all they care about is to make a quick buck. Change in the world can come later… change in their pockets is what matters the most.

It’s stunning to see how the world is going rah-rah over “disruption” when sustenance and a long-term vision is what sees through most of the successful businesses out there. The concept of “built-to-last” companies has unfortunately faded away from the minds of our modern-day entrepreneurs.

If they disagree with this, then probably they’ve got it all wrong. These companies started small and grew to where they are right now over a period of years.

According to a report published by the Bank of Korea on May 14, 2008, investigating 41 countries, there were 5,586 companies older than 200 years. Of these, 3,146 are in Japan, 837 in Germany, 222 in the Netherlands, and 196 in France.

List of Oldest Companies, Wikipedia

Sure, Kongō Gumi Co., Ltd. isn’t as disruptive or cash-rich as Uber… but it’s one of the oldest companies in the world. Founded in 578 AD, 1440 years ago.

Most of these old companies have one thing in common — they’re small and choose to be that way. And some of them are doing pretty good for themselves and their country’s economy. I like that and I wish our entrepreneurs could appreciate it as well. Small isn’t necessarily bad but more flexible, manageable and definitely scalable.

As an entrepreneur, you’re a builder of businesses… and you can’t afford not to think long-term. Not everyone will become the next Uber or Facebook. And we have to burn that into our memories.

Disruption has its time and place but sustainability is important. Perhaps, we’re closer to the era of internet-based small businesses… that could possibly become the new norm.