Big or small – It all depends!

Big or small – It all depends!

By Rajesh Setty on Mon 06 Jun 2005, 10:01 PM – 2 Comments

I have learnt so much from Seth that it’s sometimes scary to disagree with him. Seth posted two great articles in the last two days on his blog. Here they are:

1. 6/5/05 – Small is the new big

2. 6/6/05 – more on small

There was a lot of great insight there however, while I agree with many

things over there, I have to disagree on the overall theme. I had to

write this as there are probably thousands out there that take Seth’s

word as gospel and may take some action based on this advise.

Seth talks about how it is better to be small rather than big. He talks about his own experience


For the last six years, I’ve had

exactly one employee. Me. This has changed my worklife in ways that I

hadn’t predicted. The biggest changes are:

1. the kind of project that’s “interesting” is now very different. It

doesn’t have to be strategic or scalable or profitable enough to feed

an entire division. It just has to be interesting or fun or good for my


2. the idea of risk is different as well. I can write an ebook and

launch it in some crazy way and see what happens. I can build a dot com

enterprise with a questionable business model and just see what

happens. Because my costs are a whisker compared to a large

organization, there’s just no comparison in the way I can approach

something (compared to, say, a publisher).


My $.02 on the small vs big is that there is no one right answer. It

depends and the strategy has to be different based on the situation.

While being small may work for Seth, for a common man it may be an

impediment to grow. Not everyone may have the brainpower of Seth – to

be creative and resourceful. Not everyone may have the connections and

reach that Seth has. Not everyone has the brand power that Seth has.

So, blindly thinking that if it works for Seth, it will work for me may

be a recipe for disaster.

My take is that if you really want to be small, you need some skills

and you should already be “remarkable” in your mind, in your thought

process, in your way you build your relationships and so on.

I was part of the team that bootstrapped our company CIGNEX.

When we founded the company in 2000, we were small and it was not easy.

It was hard to find a customer, to find a partner, to get a credit

line, to market, to get a speaking slot and to get some buzz going

around. What seems easy now was very hard. One keyword – there was

limited “leverage” when we were small. As we started growing, we

started getting higher leverage out of everything we do.

Seth has so many examples demonstrating the advantages of being small.

Those are inspiring but it should be your call as to whether you are

that “kind” of person to repeat what some of the folks in Seth’s

examples accomplished.

Here is the summary of my thoughts:

a) Every situation is different. Sometimes being small is good sometimes it may not be good. There is no one right answer.

b) You need to be “remarkable” as a person if you want to succeed being small.

c) If you choose to be small, have a great personal brand or be willing to work VERY hard to build one.

d) Big or small – the keyword is “leverage” If you know how to

“leverage” your assets, relationships and skills, the chance of success

in either case (big or small) is the same.

e) Big and small both have their own advantages and disadvantages. What

may work for someone else may not work for you and vice versa.

Seth, I am one of your humble students. You are great. But, I had to disagree with you here.


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2 Comments so far, Add Yours

Anonymous  on June 7th, 2005

gee, rajesh, you missed the point by a mile and have just picked out a couple of statements to blog-lash Seth. his story compels readers to be small (agile, quick, sensitive) and think big (vision, ambition, leverage).


Anonymous  on June 7th, 2005

Thanks for the post Karthik. Really, I have no intention to blog-lash Seth. I respect him a lot but this time I had to disagree.

I could have picked other pieces of Seth’s post too then it would be a “real” blog-lash. I didn’t. For example, Seth talks about eBay as being big (8,000 employees) but I think in that case, small is a relative word. I think for the kind of market cap ($52B) eBay has, eBay is small. They have the leverage of giants with only 8,000 people.

The conclusions that you made from the article may not be the conclusions that others make from the article. From the themes outlined in both the posts, it felt that Seth was arguing against building big companies.

My point was simple – we can’t make a generic statement on these things that is extreme. I had a similar argument with Seth about whether to have an MBA or not.

I must say that I am fortunate. Seth is one of my heroes and still I can still disagree with him (sometimes)!!

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