Republished from Ad Age
It’s Nice to Land Big Clients, But Small Businesses Are the Key to the Future
Whether they’re agencies or the clients that they serve, nearly all businesses start small. Some remain comfortably so, while others set aggressive growth targets and seek to grow in synch with demand. Five employees become 50, then 500 if everything fits together and falls into place. A recognized brand is built. A vibe and culture is established. Momentum builds. There’s something special that happens when small businesses of all sorts launch, survive and begin to thrive. These early days are more defining than any other time in a business’s growth.
These are the days when energies find focus. When innovation and creativity are the end- or by-product of talent, resourcefulness and hard work. Days when teamwork and collaboration are not merely concepts, but readily seen on the faces of coworkers.
These are defining days when the “small” in small business implies the advantages of true personal service, customization, flexibility, commitment and trust. The days when everything is “live” and it either works or it doesn’t. You have to experience it to know how it feels. The good and the bad. The excitement and exhilaration that comes with a win. The agony that accompanies a loss. It’s business life on the edge, and every day is a challenge.
Today, we are seeing the possible beginning of a trend that is concerning. Fewer startups are launching than those that are closing their doors. Net loss is a key component of the American economy. It’s a critical issue with implications for the American Dream, especially in an industry that empowers the dream.
Sure, there always have been and always will be the typical issues with startups and entrepreneurial ventures. Poor business planning. Bad partners. Access to capital. Attraction of quality talent. But today’s small businesses — including agencies that may be teetering on the brink of sustainable operations or failure — speak of issues such as staying on top of critical and changing regulatory compliance, rising and unpredictable health care costs, predatory patent trolls, cybersecurity and other concerns. They point to uncertainties beyond the norm. They wonder whether the field has quietly tilted from opportunity and equalitarian pursuit of the American Dream to other interests.
As this week is celebrated as National Small Business Week across the nation, agencies across the spectrum fit the bill of small businesses — digital, integrated, brand, field marketing, whatever; they not only contribute on their own, but also to the success of hundreds of thousands of small businesses who need to generate demand for their products and services, and know that agencies are able to help them succeed. ‘
While all agencies want to land the big fish, there is an overarching value in the acquisition, retention and nurturing of small businesses that extends far beyond billings. Today’s small business could very well be tomorrow’s big fish.
We will see the next generation of Burnett, Chiat, Fallon, Deutsch, McGarry and other yet unknown names that will be famous for what they do for clients. We will witness brand storytellers, media pros, analysts and strategists who are effectively navigating the complexities of today’s marketplace. We will see idea generators who are sought out because small businesses know that they have the know-how to make others’ dreams and ambitions come to life. There is a special synergy between small businesses and smaller agencies — a sense of shared challenges, shared experiences and ideally, shared vision.
In the midst of working for clients, solving problems and making things happen, we should take time to celebrate the meaningful contribution of small business in our community. This is one of the areas in which our industry shines. Here’s to small businesses and the agencies that make them successful.