Celebrate Small

When you’re small, there is so much to celebrate.

When you’re small, you’re capable of handcrafted experiences, thoughtful details and careful outcomes.

When you’re small, you can personally know every customer. You can afford to do the little things that matter, like calling a customer or spending an hour to understand how you can help them better.

When you’re small, you can ensure every email, every video, every blog post and every status message is crafted with care.

When you’re small, you can make sure everyone is on the same page. And if they’re not, you can find out why just by asking.

When you’re small, you can change directions in a hurry, because you feel like it or because a new opportunity just has to be explored.

When you’re small you can afford to care.

When you’re small, you can affect people deeply.

Once you’re big, everything changes.

Once you’re big, you can’t know all your customers (or even everyone you work with).

You lose the critical feedback loop between customers’ honest, human needs and the folks at the top with revenue goals and shareholder demands.

You can’t create the little details that matter so much, that create love and trust and delight in your audience.

There’s just not enough time. It’s all too big.

More importantly, once you’re big you can’t get small again.

Getting big is a one-way journey.

Staying small is a journey too. It’s just not an obvious one.

Staying small takes work. You have to choose to find better ways to do things instead of just throwing money or people at problems. You have to grow quality over quantity.

Small is great.

Big can be great too, but big gets too much attention. Big likes to make people doing small and meaningful work feel inadequate for no good reason. The latest IPO gets first page news headlines for months. Today’s venture capital raise is always a big deal.

Big is celebrated because it’s easy to explain. Biggest revenue, most powerful brand, most employees, fastest growth. There is always one of each category.

Big is fun to talk about (“Did you see AcmeCorp’s revenue this quarter? Wow.”), but big doesn’t mean better. And big doesn’t always matter.

It’s hard to separate big from greed. A few people get rich when something goes public. Investors and founders get rich. Employees and users aren’t better off.

Small is not so easy to explain. Without big numbers to compare, you have to pay attention to the details. You have to read past the headlines and rely on your experience.

Details matter when something is small. The details are why the people who matter love small things.

Small is great.

Big can rarely stay great, even if it started great when it was small.

We should celebrate small.

Celebrate small companies and ideas and projects.

Celebrate entrepreneurs who understand how hard it is to stay small and choose to do so anyway.

Celebrate the small and profitable in a world of big and wasteful.

Staying small is an art. Constraints guide greatness.

You don’t have to put down big to embrace small. Big is what it is. Something will always be the biggest, and sometimes big is done right. Some things are supposed to get big, to change the course of human history or bring good to every person.

Big isn’t really the enemy. The real enemies are the invisible assumptions surrounding big, the gravity of big, the sense that if what I’m making doesn’t get big then it’s not good, I’m not good. That’s not true.

Small doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Let’s change that.

Celebrate the small thing you’re building. Acknowledge it’s importance. Pat yourself on the back. Enjoy the moments with the details and the customers that big can never have.

Appreciate the small entrepreneurs and businesses and projects and organizations around you that make your life better because they care about the people and the craft more than the growth and market share.

Small matters.

Celebrate small.

A version of this article appeared at Medium.

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  • http://www.costaricaguy.com Scott

    Corbett Barr…this is one hell of a post! The underlying truth revealed within it is remarkably insightful…big does not generally equate to best…

    • http://webdesignerarsenal.wordpress.com Jotpreet Singh

      REALLY, being small is to celebrate. And, being big will never defeat it.
      Thanks for it, Corbett.

    • http://thinktraffic.net Corbett Barr

      Thanks guys.

  • http://www.womenceoproject.com Kristi

    Perfect. Perfect post. Thank you so much for this.

  • chris

    I should have my wife read this post. :-)

    • Chase Reeves

      BWAAAha ha ha ha ha!

    • http://www.fanextra.com Tom Ross

      Hahaha, amazing

    • http://www.homebuyernation.com Scott Riley

      Who wants to bet me $10 that “chris” is really Chase?! :-)

  • http://www.digitaldogsbody.com Callie Willows

    I love this post. So much online these days seems to be focused on growing your business so big that you lose touch with the actual reason you were doing it in the first place. People who deliberately keep their business small are almost made to feel ‘lesser than’, whether consciously or not (and conversely people who talk about making six/seven figures can be looked upon as being greedy etc).

    In actuality, there’s plenty of room for both big and small businesses, and neither is better or worse than the other, just different. I’m never going to have a ‘big’ business, and I’m perfectly okay with that as long as I know that I’m building the best business I can with the tools that I have, and as long as it suits what I want to achieve and the lifestyle I want. Staying small doesn’t mean stopping trying or not having ambition.

    • http://thinktraffic.net Corbett Barr

      Exactly, well said Callie.

  • http://www.BloggerDoc.com Amal Rafeeq

    When you’re small there is too much to Celebrate! Wow! Well said Corbett! That was an awesome one.
    I cannot disagree with you on this. When you’re big, things DOES change a lot. Being small rocks.
    I guess Small is the New Big. Well put article mat.
    Thanks a lot for sharing.


  • http://www.skipblankley.com skip blankley

    Agree completely regarding the celebration of the small victories. “One Little Victory” is a phrase i like to use (title of a Rush song), and it reminds me to celebrate ALL of the wins, big or small. It is surprising how many little wins go unnoticed, and not by others but by those that actually accomplish them. The humble ones doing amazing things are sometimes the last to acknowledge their victories, it is just their nature. I for one have to remind myself quite often that what we are doing is actually making a difference in peoples lives, and we should be celebrating the fact that we are able to make the lives of our clients easier and help them realize their dreams of growing their businesses. Step back everyday and take a look at what you are doing for the world, even if it is just one client’s world, what you accomplished for them is making their lives better, their businesses grow, and that ultimately contributes to the greater good of everything.

    Here is the link to that Rush song, check it yo! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMYDuPWHFAo

    • http://thinktraffic.net Corbett Barr

      I never imagined a reference to Rush would come up in response to this post. Well played, Skip :)

    • http://www.herviewphotography.com Darlene

      OMG I hate them so bad I violently turn the radio off at the first notes before Geddy Lee can make my ears bleed

      • Chase Reeves

        I unapprove this message.

  • http://phdsolopreneur.com Edmundo López B.

    Here I’ll let you my small comment. Really like the post. Thanks.

  • http://www.fanextra.com Tom Ross

    This is exactly where my head’s at atm, and that’s down to you guys. My biggest business crushes are the ‘small’ guys in their niche. The Wistia, not the Youtube.

    Small lets you create customer care that blows your customer’s minds.

    Small let’s your view your audience as real people, not just empty metrics.

    One tip I would add is that you should alter your self-perception of your businesses size. I used to think of my blog in terms of large, meaningless metrics, because it sounded good. My metrics are broadly the same, but suddenly I feel like I’m talking to 1000 people that care, instead of 250,000 that don’t. This is kind of the caveat with being unable to revert back from big to small. If you 80/20 your audience, cut away all the crap and get laser like focus, then it takes you to a smaller, but richer place.

    This post just given me an idea for guest post, which I promise I’ll actually get completed and sent to you this time ;).

    • http://thinktraffic.net Corbett Barr

      Fantastic point about the 1,000 who care vs. the 250k who don’t. This makes it so much easier to create things the people who actually matter will respond to.

  • http://freshspectrum.com Chris Lysy

    Great post Corbett. Thanks for writing, it inspired a new cartoon.

    • http://thinktraffic.net Corbett Barr

      Well done!

  • http://www.mybuddhistlife.com Padma

    This is a great post Corbett. Here’s to 21st century cottage industries and boutiques!

  • http://www.naturalhaircommunity.com Akira

    This is such a timely post. It is a quiet and gentle reminder to mentally slow down and enjoy the space I am currently in because there is plenty to celebrate. It also reminds me to stop comparing my work in process to others finished works. As the moments that I have right now, will never return again for this particular project and it would be a shame to miss the small joys of simply being small.

  • http://www.cheshirepark.ca Linda

    Wow, thanks, that was one refreshing post! Small? Hell micro! Celebrate small is right and why we all get force-fed this belief that “bigger is better” is bullshit. For me, it’s about quality. The quality of product and service I can offer my clients. The quality of life I can offer myself. I have something now that I didn’t in chasing “big” for 20 years: Time quality. Time is the most precious of things and no amount of chasing big will get you more. My mantra? Stay small and use your time wisely.

  • http://eleanorestrong.com/ Eleanore

    Thanks for this great reminder. I’m already thinking along these lines. I’ve always felt that if my work helped even ONE person to become more loving, joyful, and peaceful about their life, it would be totally worth it. It’s not about reaching the entire world – it’s about having a deep impact on the people in YOUR world.

    • http://thinktraffic.net Corbett Barr

      And paradoxically, when you figure out how to have a deep impact on a small group, you become much more valuable to a wider audience.

    • http://eleanorestrong.com/ Eleanore

      Yes – that’s what I’m hoping, anyway. :)

  • http://www.rockshoehq.com Jason

    Absolutely awesome! I really enjoyed this post! Makes me feel like the “small” work I am doing is going to matter to someone!

  • http://www.recipesforlearning.com Tony Pfeiffer, The Joy of Learning Guy

    Small is beautiful to quote E.F. Schumacher. I do my best to celebrate something each day. It could be meeting my “newest best friend”.

    May our lives never got so big and complicated we forget to celebrate the joy of living and learning.

  • http://www.homebuyernation.com Scott Riley

    Thanks Corbett. My favorite products/ideas/businesses are always the small, lesser-known ones. It’s sad that once a “hidden gem” is exposed, the owners seem to always want to get big.

  • http://dearcollegeme.com Terran

    This is excellent. The choice of whether to be big or small hasn’t presented itself yet and may not for a while, but this post is a compelling argument for maintaining some humility and that human to human connection. Thank you for writing it, sir.

  • http://www.lifeisorganized.com Mridu Parikh

    I LOVE THIS POST! Thank you for the inspiration.

  • http://completetruthprotein.co/ Drew

    I couldn’t agree more, great post! There’s nothing wrong with small, in fact bringing what small has to offer to large is the way of the future. Being personal and in touch with your audience instead of a name logo or automation.

  • http://www.aaronbenitez.net Aaron

    Love it. It’s perfect. Keep writing epic shit, Corbett. Regards from Mexico!

  • http://www.annieandfrederick.com Donna

    Thoughtful post….I like the ‘small and profitable’ concept!

  • http://Brittansalisbury.com Brittan Weaver

    Oh gosh, thanks for giving me an awesome start to my day with a healthy dose of good perspective.

    As I ponder this post in regards to the blog and business I imagine and am slowly developing, I’m thinking of the little things I can do which bring me joy to do for others. Being small is OTHERS oriented and you have more opportunity to put your ego on the back burner. I feel like my ego and desire for “big” comes out when I don’t get the accolades from others that I want. Putting others on a pedestal and creating applause around my audience in small ways is a beautiful (and sometimes backwards feeling) way to grow a caring and personal brand. Thanks for the reminder :)

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  • Chrissy

    Great post Corbett ! I absolutely love this and its a good reminder that while there is nothing wrong in dreaming big, we need to enjoy the journey along the way of becoming a successful entrepreneur.

  • http://www.manolegeorge.com Manole George

    I like very much this epic shit you write. Regards from Romania :D

  • http://www.earlyparenthoodsupport.com Jessica Michaelson

    Thanks Corbett (and Chase and Caleb) for speaking the douche-free truth over and over again. A business can be very rewarding, lucrative, and internationally known while staying small. It’s really fun to have fewer clients who receive all of my devotion and more attention that they’ve ever received from a professional.

    • http://thinktraffic.net Corbett Barr

      Happy to speak the truth, whatever you call it ;)

  • http://www.enpio.com Ray Simon

    Being a small business owner, of course I love this post. One of the interesting challenges is in the minds of prospects. They always seem to want to see that you are “big and successful”.

    After all, nobody wants to be your first client!

    They also seem to think that if you are small, then if you are sick one day that no work will get done on their project. This may be true. But what they don’t know is that even if they hired a “big” company, the team that is working on their project is small… and no one is waiting to jump in just in case someone is sick that day. So the result is the same.

    There’s a lot of pressure to be “big”, during pre-sales, but post-sales everyone wants the personal attention of the boutique firm. It is important to get ahead of the small/big conversation during the pre-sale and highlight why small is the perfect fit for the prospect.

    Thanks for this post, Corbett!

  • http://www.greatnorthwestwine.com Andy Perdue

    Thanks for the great post, 3C’s.

    I come from a newspaper background, where bigger is always better – and always the goal.

    It has taken me the better part of a year to embrace small. I don’t need a huge audience. I just need my audience.

    As Steve Martin once said, “Let’s get small.”


  • http://hightechbloggers.com Sagar Nandwani

    That’s one is the great post. Got many things to learn for this one thaks for this great article.

  • http://thesafealternative.com Nick

    Truth is spoken, that is why I have felt for a long time that I would rather be small and happy than big and lose sight.

  • http://bemorewithless.com Courtney Carver | Be More with Less

    This has to be my favorite Think Traffic post of all time. Whenever I start thinking about expanding my business, I remember the Mexican Fisherman Story and get back to doing what I love most. So proud to be small!

    • http://thinktraffic.net Corbett Barr

      Thanks so much Courtney!

    • http://designyourownblog.com marianney

      Ah totally! The Mexican Fisherman story fits perfectly here, I LOVE it!

  • http://falconerwebmarketing.com Aaron Baldassare

    Small is the best way to be the best help to someone. Small is personal. Every person is small.

    There are advantages to being big too, but no one person can take advantage of them. We only have the advantage of small.

    Big corporations, big systems, big government can give us more for our money, more for our effort. But at some point, when we decide we have plenty and we say no to more, the advantage of being big hits a ceiling.

    The advantage of small, even though being small is no guarantee of it, will not disappear. And there is no real limit to it. So here’s to the power of small!

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  • Kayode

    This is an original, perspective-adjusting piece from the master epic shit writer! Many of us have all missed it and chased shadows because of the false assumptions underguiding bigness. So we did anything to fight the small stigma.
    This wasn’t a rant against the big per se but a call for giving a well-deserved space for the small having the DNA of quality and attention. As much as we think big, let’s also remember to think small.That big corporation down the street was just a small seed out of the womb of yesterday. We forget this at the peril of our health.
    I love this piece! Keep it revving, Corbett.

  • http://www.diggingfordough.com Nancy

    What a great read on launch day of our “small”, but hopefully mighty new website. It has never been our intention to grow this “thing” in huge proportions. We just want the freedom to roam, do something that we love and engage with like-minded people. Hopefully, today was a step in the right direction for us.

    We are happily busy today, following-up on every comment, liking every single Facebook share and engaging with our new found audience.

    We are excited to see where this road takes us…small, medium or gigantic. But, on our first day out of the gate, it was refreshing to hear that small is good, small can help people, small can be satisfying.

    Later tonight, we will pat ourselves on the back. I hope many of you will do the same.

    • http://thinktraffic.net Corbett Barr

      Small, yet Mighty. I like that.

  • http://asacredjourney.net Lacy

    Thanks so much for this reminder, Corbett. It’s so easy to get caught up in the “shoulds” and “not there yets” when following the (great advice) of the “bigs.”

  • http://designyourownblog.com marianney

    Awesome post! I totally agree and love how you didn’t put down big either. Big IS what it is and sometimes it’s quite necessary.

    But when you’re big you just get to manage and you don’t create anymore. You hire people to do it for you.

    I personally plan to stay small in my new endeavor because I like the connections and the joy I get from discovering new people, new things, and creating… most of all, creating!

  • http://agentsofinfluence.net Laney Galligan

    Brilliant post. I nodded all the way through it. I’ve worked in great small businesses that then became less great as they tried to grow bigger, through greed and throwing more people at problems. Disaster.

  • http://Www.thegreenmicrogym.com Adam from the green microgym

    Great post. One of the best.

    As someone who knew this beforehand, but got caught up in the “this could be huge!” thinking with my own business for awhile (filing for patents, chasing the golden ring, getting angel investment way too early, and worst of all, avoiding sharing all I knew with like minded people for fear they would steal my ideas which happened anyway because frankly, that’s business), I would encourage everyone reading this to always keep it in mind, no matter how successful you become.

  • http://www.hannahkosek.com Hannah

    Thanks for the reminder to celebrate every step even if you feel silly or weird doing so. Today we definitely tend to get caught up in the “next thing” focus.

  • http://www.tortoiseandladygrey.com Summer

    I love this post. It sums up exactly how I feel about what I am doing with my blog and the designers I choose to promote. Small is sustainable. When more businesses are small, there are more pieces of the pie to go around. Small is certainly worth celebrating.
    Thanks for a great post.

  • http://www.careerexitstrategy.com Matt

    Small business has long been the lifeblood of business and commerce.
    It is what employs the most people.
    It is what has led in economic recoveries.
    It is what binds communities together.
    This is a great reminder and message of the true power of being small.

  • http://www.onlinemarketingforintroverts.com/ Mark Brinker

    Corbett, it’s so refreshing to see a post that acknowledges people that actually enjoy their *craft*, and growing their business big is not necessarily the primary focus.

    I’m reminded of the doctor that saved my wife’s life several years ago when he installed an emergency stent to open a blocked artery. Glad he wasn’t doing a promotional seminar or on a book tour at that time.

    Ironically, the name of that cardiac specialist was … Dr. Kraft. True story.

    • http://thinktraffic.net Corbett Barr

      Powerful illustration Mark, thanks for sharing. And Dr. Kraft? Crazy.

  • http://www.aftermotherhoodwhat.com.au Gabrielle/After motherhood, what?

    I think I love you.

  • http://www.aftermotherhoodwhat.com.au Gabrielle/After motherhood, what?

    I’m not a stalker, it’s just so refreshing to read something other than “six figure/seven figure income in 6 months”. My business has been extremely slow to get off the ground, but thinking in terms of small vs BIG has given me quite a calm feeling of quiet determination. Thanks for a unique post.

  • Iza

    This post is amazing, full of feelings, makes me think about BIG and small…
    Really, great job :)

  • http://www.mouthofthewolf.com Gretchen Icenogle

    I super-duper double approve this message. With sprinkles. Just a beautiful and necessary post. It takes so much uncelebrated discipline and courage to fight the tide of BIG and find the skin that’s just your own size. (apologies for the wild mixing of metaphors!) Also to embrace the paradox brought home by this hypernoisy age: that being quiet may be the best way to find ourselves truly heard, and creating space for others may be the surest path to full expression of our own inimitable gifts. Thank you, Corbett.

  • Jeremy

    This is a great post. I knew I was in for some different thinking when I read, “Big is celebrated because it’s easy to explain. Biggest revenue, most powerful brand, most employees, fastest growth.” And then you went further: why we should feel good about being small, practically a manifesto for “small is good”. Kudos and cheers.

  • http://www.hernandocadett.com Hernando Cadet

    Small is indeed important, every big company started as a small company, even the ones that are changing the financial industry.

  • http://www.greytip.in Greytip Online

    Corbett, this is an awesome post !!!

    Small business contributes a lot to economy, worldwide.
    Particularly in emerging economies like India, small business is one of the biggest employment generator too.

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  • http://www.jaysblogventure.com Justin

    After reading this blog post I don’t feel half as bad about my new blog that I set up, just like you said “CELEBRATE SMALL”. I guess for every visitor I get is a small success to celebrate. Excellent post Corbett!

  • http://www.expertsenterprise.com Hugh Culver

    Nicely done Corbett. When I work with new speakers I remind them that the actual volume of business they need is pretty small. And they are much better off thinking about just getting one client and loving them up, rather than worrying about being seen by thousands.

    This is a good kick in the perspective for all of us.


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  • http://www.michaelofei.com/ Michael Ofei

    Every time I get frustrated because I’m not where I want to be (or where I think I should be), I need to take a deep breath and remember the principles in this post. We don’t need to be big to be successful or happy. Thank you for sharing this Corbett.

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