About this column
Business basics for brand creators. Because keeping up with the details shouldn’t derail your big dreams.
“My mother loves small things,” the customer said to me.
She was describing what she saw as a particular quirk of her mother’s, but the truth was that many people love small things — for very particular reasons. When I owned my retail shop, this seemingly idiosyncratic detail was one my shopgirls and I heard often.
On this day, I’d been working the sales floor, chatting with regulars, greeting first-time customers, and giving some of them a quick tour of new finds we’d just unpacked and displayed. This particular customer (we’ll call her Marta — she was a regular) was shopping for a Mother’s Day gift. She picked up a set of tiny, glazed ceramic salt and pepper shakers in the shape of bluebirds, painted in a soft wash of robin’s egg blue (natch).
“She’ll love these,” she said, walking them up to the counter where I ran her credit card, wrapped the bluebird shakers in our signature kraft-and-chocolate polka dotted tissue paper, and tucked them into a logo gift bag. Then she was on her way, to return again another day seeking a new find, hoping for an experience that felt very much like the one she’d had on this particular day. Particular. Personal. Curated.
People love small things — for very particular reasons.
Most of the business owners we’re lucky to work with at The Voice Bureau have very small businesses. While their revenues might range anywhere from $20,000/year (in ‘just launched’ mode) to multiple six figures, they insist on designing and running a business that feels small. Particular. Personal. Curated.
Usually, their “team” is just them, or them and a VA. Or them, a VA, and a few other collaborators or team members.
It’s fun for my team and me to work with these types of values-based microbusinesses because that’s the type of business The Voice Bureau is. We get why small and particular appeals to you.
In these online entrepreneurial realms, we hear so much about the importance of scaling a business so that more parts of it can be ‘hands-off,’ leaving the business owner with more time and energy for a life outside her business. While I totally agree with the second half of that equation, I don’t think that scaling for volume is the only way to go about having a business that feels good and is profitable. I think it’s time we talked about scaling for a tiny little jewel box of a brand.
Scaling for small
In my own business, I am scaling to be a tiny little jewel box of a brand. That’s how I think of The Voice Bureau.
Right now, and for the past couple years, I’ve been working at scaling my business for four things:
- IMPACT — which, to me, means seeing my message and my work reach as many Right People as far as it can go
- GROWTH IN REVENUES — which, to me, means having operating leverage, being able to bring in as much income as possible while being as modest and sustainable as possible in growth efforts
- PLEASURE — which, to me, means getting to do mostly the stuff I truly love doing that’s within my zone of genius, and building the business in a way that’s beautiful, and not doing the things that don’t actually bring me pleasure or an internalized sense of adding value (like hustling for speaking gifts, going after PR opportunities, etc.)
- PARTICULARITY — which, to me, means serving the exact Right People in the exact right ways in the exact particular tone and style that works for them and for me
I want to be known for really specific ideas, concepts, and approaches. I want to feel particular, selective, curated, and well-appointed.
I want my business to be well-honed, lithe, and supple where it counts (which is always around the needs of The Voice Bureau‘s Right People). I want flexible architecture. And I want to give my clients an experience that feels small, regardless of the revenues I’m bringing in. Because ‘scaling for small’ does NOT have to equate small profits.
Think about it.
Maybe in your business, the dream is to work with three carefully vetted clients each quarter, and that’s it. You’ll make fully a quarter of your yearly income each quarter from your engagements with these clients. You’ll maintain the emotional and psychological bandwidth to deliver a truly great experience for them. And you’ll have a tiny, quiet team behind the scenes engaged in building the infrastructure to support the clients’ experience and your experience. To keep focused, you’ll lean on your high Love, Security, and Excellence Voice Values.
Maybe in your business, you plan on building a suite of courses around the topics you teach and model. Your goal is to eventually license your own material so that other practitioners can teach using your work as a guide. Someday you’ll create a high level private mentorship for people who really want to go deep. You’ll lean on your high Community, Depth, and Helpfulness Voice Values to get this done.
Or maybe you’re a visual artist who works on commission, always in a very particular style and medium. You have no desire to ‘scale’ in terms of client volume, but you are interested in opening an online boutique where people can peruse and purchase non-commission works. You plan to hire a terrific Virtual Assistant (VA) to help you carry this out. You’ll lean on your high Intimacy, Accuracy, and Enthusiasm Voice Values to make this work for you.
There are many different ways to scale for small, and not all of them require you to be “hands off,” to enroll huge numbers of buyers or clients, or to hike your prices sky high so that only the heavily invested can work with you.
Toward a tiny little jewel box brand
I’m kind of in love with this ‘tiny little jewel box’ of a brand idea. It’s what I’m going for these days, and it’s what we help our clients move toward and into in their own work.
WHAT’S INSIDE A JEWEL BOX?
Only what fits.
Only what’s precious.
A few heritage pieces.
A few current favorites.
Lots of eminently wearable standbys.
And lots and LOTS of value.
If you’re intent on building your own business brand as a tiny little jewel box, I invite you to join me.
In the comments, I’d love to hear:
What does ‘scaling for small’ look like in your business? What would you LIKE it to look like?