Today is my personal "un-branding" day.
The thirty-second summary of this post is:
- Community Bandwidth, the name of my consulting business, is being retired.
- I'm still consulting, but just as "Phillip Smith," nothing more, nothing less.
- Being "aggressively small" has worked for eight years; here's to eight more.
Read on for the extended version.
Since April 1st, 2003, I've been consulting under the banner of Community Bandwidth. For most of that time, it has been just little ol' me doing the work. There were many great collaborators along the way, but the buck always started and stopped with me. (The previous eight years involved two start-ups, three business partners, and completely missing the dot-com boom at least once, if not twice.)
In the summer of 2008, I attended the first gathering of what is now known as the Open Agency Network -- an off-shoot of Web of Change that brings together people who run Web businesses devoted to social change. It was around that time that I started really grappling with the question of the direction for my own business, i.e.: staying small vs. growing, hiring staff vs. finding partners, and so on.
It's serendipitous that, as the 4th Open Agency Network gathering wraps up in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, I've finally stopped grappling with those questions (for the next few years at least). You see, I know myself pretty well. I know that I don't like being managed. I also know that what I like even less is managing other people. (That's probably what I get for spending six years consulting with a radical cooperative in the UK.)
Staying small enables me to avoid some tough decisions -- like taking on work that isn't 100% in my sweet spot, or clients that aren't a 100% perfect fit -- and eliminates a lot of the stress of "running a business." More importantly, staying small let's me stay grounded in work that I enjoy.
There are trade-offs, to be sure: it takes longer to get stuff done; I can only work with a handful organizations at a time; there are great project opportunities that I have to turn down, and -- ultimately -- I'm responsible for 100% of the deliverables I commit to.
However, what being small has taught me -- lessons that could probably benefit any entrepreneur -- is:
- Under commit. Over deliver.
- Do less, but do it really, really well.
- Find a balance between "doing" and "learning," and -- where possible -- avoid inflicting the learning on the client or project.
So, today is about un-branding, and about embarking on the next few years with a clear idea of what's ahead, and what's not ahead. And, for now, I'm happy to leave all those nagging questions behind.