11 Reasons to Stay Small

For some firms, gettin’ big ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. Staying small (under 5 people total) has its advantages, including these:

1. You stay sane. When your firm is small, you can wrap your hands around the business more efficiently. You’re more in touch with knowing when to refuse work that could overwhelm you and your staff.

2. You’re better able to direct the creative and the business aspects of design. Control can be the first thing that slips away as a firm grows.

3. You can keep your overhead low. Employees and space cost a lot, especially in bigger cities. To foot the bill, some larger firms take on more work than they can handle. Small firms don’t have as many mouths to feed.

4. You can provide customer service to your clients without losing anything in the translation through layers of middlemen.

5. You can keep your staff members excited with a variety of projects, and they’ll have a more varied portfolio to show for it.

6. Your firm’s culture remains viable. Especially as agencies consolidate, an individual firm’s "vibe," whether it’s young and hip or comfortable and homey, changes irreparably.

7. You won’t become desperate for employees. As other design firms rapidly expand to meet client demands, they’re struggling to find—and pay for—the talent to fuel that growth.

8. You can afford to be selective in choosing clients. Manageable overhead means you don’t have to accept work from alcoholic-beverage or cigarette manufacturers, if you have issues with those types of clients.

9. You can focus on growing your clients’ businesses because you’re not consumed with growing your own.

10. You can stick to your core competencies. Firms in growth mode tend to stray from the types of work for which they’re best-suited.

11. You actually get to design.

From HOW, December 2000.